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The use of Contextual Data in University Admissions

1 February 2017 - 10 July 2018

Awarded to: Dr Anna Mountford-Zimdars

Co-investigators: Joanne Moore

Research partners: Louise Higham

Funding awarded to Exeter (total funding of £ 12,000)

Sponsor(s): Fair Education Alliance

About the project


The Fair Education Alliance has commissioned research to understand the current use and impact of contextualised admissions data in admissions to courses at universities with high entry requirements. This work builds on previous research into the use of contextual data published by Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) in 2013. This report is available here.


The purpose of the current project is to: 

  • Investigate current practice in the use of contextualised data in admissions, extending previous analyses.
  • Explore the use of contextualised data:
  • - in making offers of places;
    - at the confirmation stage; and
    - regarding progression at university. 


We will conduct interviews with up to nine universities to establish their practice in using contextual data, and will undertake fieldwork in institutions in support of the work. We will also undertake a review of the literature and will talk with sector stakeholders to establish the salience and support for the use of contextual data and future directions. 


The main output is this report and guidance for higher education providers and sector stakeholders which shows the use of contextual data in admissions and showcase examples, with a view to supporting good practice.  We will also hold a discussion and dissemination event, and might publish an academic article from the work. Information on institutions will be reported on an anonymous basis unless participating institutions prefer their good practices to be identified.