National research on the use of contextual data in admissions is generalised across disciplines, and largely draws on national datasets and interviews with heads of admissions. Research has shown the engagement with and confidence of using contextual data varies across the sector. However, the role of contextual data and “grade-dropping” have different consequences for STEM programmes, which build on previous knowledge in more linear fashions. And a particular feature of admissions at most elite institutions is that admissions is undertaken at the department-level, with disciplinary-based academics leading on admissions decisions, although little research exists at this level on how contextual data is understood. This project consists of new activity that informs policymakers about specific challenges of implementing access targets in STEM fields and aims to support evidence-based policymaking nationally. This research also explores academics’ perceptions of the implications of using contextual data in admissions on the subsequent experience and sense of belonging for students, building on current Imperial research from the student perspective.

This research helps inform Imperial’s WP agenda, contributes to the evidence-base for the APP and helps to address the current challenge of translating outreach activity into an increased diversity amongst the admitted student population and supporting the drive of inclusive excellence.

For more information you can read the Contextual admissions policy report CHERSontact Dr Camille Kandiko HowsonDr Eliel Cohen and Dr Julianne Viola.