Contextual data | University of Oxford

Contextual data

We currently use a range of contextual data to help assess a candidate's academic potential in the context of their educational background.

Each candidate is given a contextual score based on the range of factors described below. This helps us understand more about each candidate’s particular circumstances and to compare them with other applicants.

General

The Undergraduate Admissions Office will collate contextual information centrally for all Oxford University 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. This is disseminated to colleges and departments.

Three types of contextual data will be considered for students applying for an undergraduate course: 

1. Prior education

  • The performance of the applicant’s school or college at GCSE or equivalent level;
  • The performance of the applicant’s school or college at A-level or equivalent level and;
  • The percentage of students eligible for free school meals at the applicant’s school or college at GCSE or equivalent level.

A candidate's contextual score will be calculated using data from the Department of Education in England or equivalent data from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. GCSE data will consider achievement of both Mathematics and English/Welsh in the school performance information.

2. Residential postcode

  • The postcode that an applicant gives as their home address is assessed using ACORN information. ACORN is a system that associates specific geodemographic profiles with individual UK postcodes; it is widely recognised and used by both the public and private sectors to assist in the effective targeting of policies, services and communications. A candidate's contextual score will be calculated depending upon which ACORN group their postcodes falls into. You can check which ACORN category your home postcode comes under on the ACORN website. You will need to register with ACORN, which is free. Once you have registered you can search for your home postcode, which will return a summary page with the ACORN Category in the top left corner. 
  • An additional postcode factor will be used in calculating a candidate's contextual score. The postcode from an applicant’s home address is matched against the POLAR4 data set. This classification places regions into quintiles based on the rate of young participation in Higher Education. You can check which POLAR4 quintile your home postcode comes under on the POLAR website. You do not need to register for POLAR. Your postcode search will return a summary page with the POLAR quintiles (and other measures). Please check against the POLAR4 quintile which is the second column.

3. Care background

  • A candidate's contextual score will take into account whether they have been in care for more than three months (determined from the UCAS application, and subject to later verification checks).