Students enrolled at the University of Bristol from ‘aspiring state schools’ are performing as well as their counterparts from better-performing schools, an Epigram investigation has found.
Of those who graduated in 2016, enrolled from an aspiring school and were eligible for a contextual offer, 26 per cent achieved a First-class degree and 60 per cent achieved a 2:1. This compares with the entire student body of that year, where 30 per cent achieved a First-class degree and 59% achieved a 2:1.
Aspiring schools are those ranked in the bottom 40 per cent in the UK that year; students from these schools are eligible for a reduced contextual offer.
Of those who graduated in 2016, enrolled from an aspiring state school and were eligible for a contextual offer, 26 per cent achieved a First-class degree and 60 per cent achieved a 2:1.
Alex Boulton, a third-year History student who received a contextual offer for attending an aspiring school, said about the statistics: ‘It goes to show Bristol is doing the right thing in using contextual offers, that talent comes from a variety of places, and I hope it will encourage more students from aspiring schools to consider coming here.’
Epigram also found that the University has increased its intake of students from aspiring schools in the past five years. In the 2012/13 academic year, 604/ 19.4 per cent of students were enrolled from aspiring schools; in 2013/14 there were 517/ 15.7 per cent; 640/ 17.5 per cent in 2014/15; 798/ 21 per cent in 2015/16; and 1,000/ 24.4 per cent in 2016/17. The data for the 2017/18 intake is not yet available as it is still being finalised.
Alex added: ‘I wouldn’t have even considered Bristol without contextual offers – A*AA just seemed too out of reach.
‘I have experienced a lot of self-doubt in my academic ability while at university considering the education many of my peers have received, so it is a relief to hear the statistics that state school students can expect to do just as well at university.’
According to a recent report by The Sutton Trust, the University of Bristol is one of only a small number of competitive universities admitting students successfully from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The report found that the university has over 60 per cent of courses for which offers made to students from lower participation neighbourhoods appear lower than those made to students from high participation neighbourhoods. This is significantly higher than any other university, as the University of York – which has the second highest per cent of courses giving lower offers – has around 25 per cent.
Lucy Collins, head of UK recruitment at the university, said: ‘The University’s approach to contextual admissions has recently been described by the Sutton Trust as sector leading. We’re very proud of this and believe that key to the success of policy is the clarity that we are able to provide to applicants.
‘Recognising the context in which students have been taught and the challenges they may have overcome allows us to reach hundreds of brilliant students every year who might otherwise have been excluded from our programmes'
‘We make it as easy as possible, with a published list of eligible schools and colleges and a postcode checker, for students to see whether they are likely to receive a reduced offer. At the heart of our approach to contextual admissions is the belief that A Level grades alone do not always reflect potential.
‘Recognising the context in which students have been taught and the challenges they may have overcome allows us to reach hundreds of brilliant students every year who might otherwise have been excluded from our programmes. Evidence has indicated that students who receive a contextual offer thrive at the University of Bristol and make a significant contribution to our academic community.’
Contextual offers are given to applicants from disadvantaged background. Applicants must meet one of four criteria to be eligible:
- You have attended an aspiring school
- You live in an area with low progression to Higher Education
- You have completed a University of Bristol outreach programme
- You have spent time in care
The data in this article is from the period when contextual offers were one grade lower than the standard offer. The figures used represent the number of students enrolled from aspiring schools in the past five years.
Students may have exceeded the terms of their contextual offer, and not all students in these figures necessarily received one; some students, such as mature students at City of Bristol College, may have entered via non-traditional roots.
Featured Image: Instagram / @bristolsu
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