Contextual admissions

Contextual admissions is a term used to describe the use of additional information, including school performance data and socio-economic markers, to provide context for an individual student’s university application and achievement.

At the Royal Agricultural University we want to encourage students from a wide range of backgrounds to participate in higher education. The additional insight gained through contextual information allows us to recognise a student’s achievements and identify their potential to succeed in the context of their background and experience.

We are therefore committed to offering all eligible students a contextual offer, which is 8 UCAS tariff points (the equivalent of one A-level grade) lower than our standard offer.

The contextual information that we use is mainly taken from a student’s UCAS application form.

To be eligible for a contextual offer students must be Home (i.e. UK domiciled) applying for an undergraduate programme and meet any one of the following criteria:

a) You are currently studying at one of the University’s link schools/colleges, and you are making your UCAS application via that school/college:

  • Askham Bryan College
  • Berkshire College of Agriculture
  • Bishop Burton College
  • Bridgwater and Taunton College
  • Brooksby Melton College (part of SMB College Group)
  • Capel Manor College
  • Cirencester College
  • Duchy College (part of Cornwall College Group)
  • Hadlow College (part of North Kent College Group)
  • Hartpury College
  • Hereford Sixth Form College
  • Kingston Maurward College
  • Moreton Morrell College (part of Warwickshire College Group)
  • Moulton College
  • Reaseheath College
  • Sparsholt College
  • Writtle University College

b) You are care experienced

Being care experienced means you will have spent time:

  • living with foster carers under local authority care,
  • in residential care (e.g. a children’s home),
  • looked after at home under a supervision order, or
  • in care with relatives or friends, either officially (e.g. a special guardianship order) or informally without local authority support.

If you meet these criteria, please indicate your care status on your UCAS application form.

c) Your home postcode is in a Low Participation Neighbourhood

If you currently live in a postcode with low progression rates to university. This is identified through the Government’s POLAR4 measure. To be eligible as a Low Participation Neighbourhood you will need a POLAR4 score of Quintile 1 or Quintile 2. You can check the status of your postcode through the Office for Students low participation neighbourhood interactive map.

The RAU will receive your POLAR4 score automatically through your UCAS application.

d) You are from a BAME (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority) background

If you are a home student (i.e. UK-domiciled) and have an ethnic background that is not White (British or Other).

If you meet this criteria, please email us on at the point of application to confirm.

e) You have served in the armed forces or you are a child from an armed forces family

If you have ever served in the UK Armed Forces, or if you have a parent or carer that currently serves in the UK Armed Forces, or who has done so in the past.

If you meet this criteria, please indicate your status on your UCAS application form.

A contextual offer is an offer which may be reduced, by one grade from the standard entry requirements and takes any contextual information into account if an applicant’s academic achievement has fallen marginally short of the conditions of the original offer. An alternative programme of study e.g. foundation year, may also be offered.

The University will also consider a wide range of equivalent qualifications and offers a range of different entry points into higher education.

Review and monitoring

While the University is committed to widening access and providing opportunities to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is not in the interests of the applicant or the University to admit students who do not have the full potential to succeed. Therefore, we will monitor students who have been admitted on this basis as well as monitoring the impact of the implementation of this policy. This information will inform any expansion to, or revisions of, the particular policy in future.

Support for students

Students admitted on the basis of a contextual confirmation decision will have access to the same support services as all other students. The University’s Developing Academic Skills module is designed to support students' learning development in a number of areas, including numeracy and statistics, time management, academic writing and referencing, and critical thinking.

All undergraduate students are also assigned a Personal Tutor who can offer advice and guidance and can help in building course confidence, academic skills and increased awareness of course opportunities.

For any further information or questions regarding our contextualised admissions policy then please contact

Prospective Student Travel Bursary

If you are struggling with the cost of attending open days, offer holder days, summer schools or taster days at the RAU's main campus you may be eligible for reimbursement of reasonable travel costs for yourself and up to two additional guests.

Eligibility for this bursary is in line with our Access and Participation Plan. You will need to be a UK resident and looking to study at undergraduate level (BSc, BA or FdSc programmes). You will also need to meet one of the following categories:

  • You live in a UK postcode identified as having low progression to higher education according to the Government’s POLAR4 (Quintile 1 and 2) – please see link to assess if you qualify:
  • You are care experienced
  • You are from an ethnic background that is not White (British or Other)
  • You have a parent or carer who currently serve in the UK Armed Forces, or who has done so in the past

Reasonable travel costs are defined as follows:

  • Return travel between the your usual home and the Royal Agricultural University main campus, for yourself and up to two additional guests.
  • If travelling by car (max of one vehicle), a mileage rate of 45p per mile can be claimed. No receipt is required, the claim will be based on the calculated return distance.
  • The costs of hiring a car cannot be claimed.
  • If travelling by rail or coach, you should use the most economical class of travel (i.e. standard class or equivalent). Advance, off-peak or saver tickets should normally be used, with ‘open’ type tickets avoided where possible. Receipts or tickets must be provided as evidence when making the claim.
  • Domestic flight travel is also claimable if the costs are equivalent to return travel and/or return mileage costs. Receipts or tickets must be provided as evidence when making the claim.
  • You should avoid the use of taxis. However, where no other form of transport is available or suitable, short journeys by taxi may be reimbursed subject to the provision of receipts (e.g. short taxi to the local train station).

Reimbursement will occur after you have been to the RAU event. To claim, please contact and you will be sent a claim form.

If you are unsure about your eligibility, or whether the proposed costs of your visit are covered, please contact us at and we will be happy to help you.