Coronavirus information and guidance

Use of contextual data


Data and information is made available for Admissions officers to allow them to put the achievements of each individual applicant into context when selecting the most appropriate candidate for a place at the University of St Andrews.

General information

Due to the availability and comparability of data, the use of contextual information will apply to UK applicants only. Contextual information will be collated centrally for all applicants permanently domiciled or seeking asylum in the UK at the point of application, and who have been educated in the UK secondary system, using publicly available information.


Our use of contextual data will be based on the following principles:

  • To be evidence-based and relevant to the admissions decision-making process.
  • To be individually applied, with each applicant being considered on their own merit.
  • To complement and enhance existing selection mechanisms.
  • To provide fairness and equality of opportunity to all applicants.
  • To have full transparency to applicants and their advisors.
  • To be open to rigorous monitoring and subject to audit.

The process will be based on individual applicant details in relation to various national averages. As a result, there is no set proportion of applicants who will be flagged with contextual markers. The proportion of applicants who are flagged will vary between academic Schools and from year to year. There is no quota of the number of students who are to be flagged.

Contextual data to be considered

  1. Prior education and potential

    To ensure entrants with the greatest potential are selected for the most appropriate course at the University of St Andrews, we will consider the academic performance of the applicant shown through their academic achievements and the educational environment in which this education took place using:

    • Specific data on progression to Higher Education relating to the school the applicant attends or most recently attended.

    • Specific attainment data relating to the school the applicant attends or attended
    • Data source:
  2. Socio-economic diversity

    We wish to ensure that those admitted based on their potential to do well at St Andrews should come from the widest possible cross section of society. To ensure we achieve this we will build diversity factors into our admissions process in the following way:

  3. Engagement with Higher Education Access programmes prior to application

    To ensure the best possible start for undergraduate students who have come from less traditional backgrounds, we will flag those applicants who have engaged with Higher Education Access programmes before applying to university. Students who take part in such programmes are much more inclined to do well in their university studies and have an increased probability of graduating with a positive outcome.

    Where a candidate has indicated they have been involved in activities that have been organised to raise aspiration to attend higher education (e.g. Sutton Trust Summer Schools, University of St Andrews Outreach programmes, or government-supported initiatives), the applicant will be flagged (determined from the UCAS application and subject to later verification checks).

Action taken by Admissions

The use of contextual information alone does not result in an automatic offer of a place being made to a candidate.

All applicants will be required to meet the minimum entrance requirements as set by the academic Schools with the contextual data being used in combination with the principles and selection criteria contained in the admissions policy. All applications that meet, or can meet, the minimum entrance requirements and contain all the required information will be assessed by an Admissions Officer using academic results personal statements and references.

The University is committed to constantly monitoring, updating and improving data sources and decision rules in relation to the use of contextual admissions.

Please also refer to our undergraduate admissions policy for further guidance.