York St John's radical offer scheme recognised by Office for Students

Published: 1/05/2019

A scheme at York St John University that aims to help people from all backgrounds increase their access to Higher Education has been highlighted positively for its ‘radical’ approach, in a new report by university regulator the Office for Students (OfS).

The University’s new way of making offers – called its ‘Opportunity and Excellence’ scheme, was introduced in 2018 to enable the University to look at the wider background factors that university applicants may have to overcome, alongside their academic potential. 

The scheme means that when somebody applies for an undergraduate course, the University looks at information on where the applicant lives, which school or college they attend, whether they are a mature student, whether they have a disability, whether they have spent time in care, and whether they are the first in family to go to university. These are factors where there is strong evidence about the impact on somebody’s chances of going to university. 

The national report published by the OfS on Wednesday 1 May, looks at how universities are using wider contextual factors to give more people from a range of backgrounds the chance to go to university.  Overall it concludes that much more could be done across the sector, however the holistic approach being taken at York St John University is highlighted for adopting this approach and described as “…the most radical published by an English university”.

The University introduced the ‘Opportunity and Excellence’ contextual offer scheme for 2019 entrants after carrying out research with prospective university students and school and College careers advisors.  It found that taking a more contextual approach to looking at applicant’s circumstances, alongside looking at their academic potential, would be well received.  The approach reinforces the University’s long-standing ethos of making a university education available to people from all backgrounds.

Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University said, “Our University has a strong record of giving more people from all walks of life the chance to benefit from Higher Education. Our new offer scheme, developed after feedback from students and careers advisors, is the latest of many initiatives we run that sees academic ability within a wider context.  It’s about understanding the whole person.

York St John University prides itself on academic excellence and this scheme helps us to uphold those high standards.  At the same time we still live in a society of significant inequalities where some people experience greater barriers to education than others.  We recognise that and have taken positive steps to help more people reach for and realise their full potential.  I am pleased that the Office for Students has highlighted this as a different sort of approach”.

You can read more about our contextual offer approach in this blog by Professor Stanton for WonkHE.

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