When a candidate is flagged under the 'contextual data' system it is strongly recommended that they are invited to interview.
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 from the government, and disseminate this information to colleges and departments.
Three aspects 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 and;
- The performance of the applicant’s school or college at A-level or equivalent level.
In both instances a candidate will receive a flag if their educational establishment performs below the national average 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.
- Candidates applying from schools who fall within Target 1 of the University’s Access Agreement will also receive a flag. These are schools that are judged to have reasonable proportions of well-qualified students, but who have poor rates of successful application to Oxford.
2. Residential postcode
- The postcode that an applicant gives as their home address, assessed using ACORN information. ACORN is a system that associates specific geodemographic profiles to 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. Where a candidate’s postcode falls into ACORN groups four or five ('Financially Stretched' and 'Urban Adversity') the application will be flagged. Further information about ACORN.
- An additional postcode factor will be used in the flagging for the coming admissions round. The postcode from an applicant’s home address is matched against the POLAR3 data set. This classification places regions into quintiles based on the rate of young participation in Higher Education. Applicants from the lowest two quintiles will be flagged. Further information about POLAR3.
3. Care background
- Whether a candidate has been in care for more than three months (determined from the UCAS application, and subject to later verification checks).
Action to be taken:
Where an applicant is predicted to achieve the grades, and in certain cases subject (s) required to meet the standard conditional offer for a place at Oxford and performs to an appropriate standard in any required pre-interview admissions test, a candidate will be strongly recommended for interview if
- They have received a contextual flag for at least one prior education measure
- They have received a contextual flag for at least one postcode measure
Where a flagged candidate is not shortlisted for interview, an explanation must be provided to the department. This can be followed up by candidates in January, after the admissions interviews have taken place.
Candidates who achieve a flag for being in care for a period of greater than three months, and who are predicted to achieve the grades, and in certain cases subject(s) required to meet the standard conditional offer for a place at Oxford, and perform at an appropriate standard in any required pre-interview test, will also be strongly recommended for interview.
Note that this use of contextual information does not result in either an automatic offer of a place or a lower offer to a candidate. The candidates flagged through use of contextual information are interviewed in addition to students who are shortlisted for interview using the usual departmental interview shortlisting criteria, so they do not displace students who have already demonstrated the expected academic ability and potential.