Widening participation at the University of Edinburgh: Contextual admissions, retention, and degree outcomes

Linda Croxford, Gemma Docherty, Rebecca Gaukroger, Kathleen Hood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, there is growing recognition that prior qualifications may not provide an adequate indication of the ‘potential’ of applicants from educationally-disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed at university. Universities are being encouraged to use contextual data on neighbourhood characteristics and school performance to identify disadvantaged applicants in the admissions process. Contextualised admissions have been pioneered at the University of Edinburgh since 2004, and this article reports findings on the prior qualifications, retention and degree outcomes of a sample of students who entered the University in 2004–2006. The article describes the distribution of contextual data and discusses the limitations of indicators based on geographical area and school characteristics. Differences in average prior qualifications, retention and degree outcomes associated with indicators of widening participation are small. Statistical models suggest that after taking account of prior qualifications WP-indicated students were as likely to complete an HE qualification and achieve an Honours degree as non-WP students, but they had a lower probability of achieving a higher classification of degree. The findings raise questions for the University about possible causes for lower achievement by disadvantaged students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-216
JournalScottish Affairs
Volume23
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2014

Keywords

  • Higher Education
  • widening access
  • deprivation
  • contextual data
  • outcomes
  • independent schools

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