Teaching & Learning


Access UCL students

Who are Access UCL students?

Access UCL was introduced to create an impact on the application and enrolment numbers of students from underrepresented backgrounds and aims to level the playing field by looking at the context in which an applicant has achieved their exam results. 

Young carers, care experienced students and estranged students are eligible for the Access UCL contextual offer scheme. However, the majority of the Access UCL cohort are students from low-income backgrounds. 

A student’s socioeconomic background can be flagged to universities via various methods, such as: 

  • POLAR (Participation of Local Areas) - This measures the percentage of young people from each area that progress to higher education. 
  • IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) - The official governmental measure of relative deprivation for small areas in the UK. 
  • Acorn – categorisation of post codes based on social factors and population behaviours. 
  • Free school meal data - universities have been lobbying for access to free school meal data via UCAS due to a growing acknowledgement that POLAR is actually a poor proxy for income. Once available, this data will be used to update Access UCL eligibility in subsequent years. 

Group descriptors and barriers

When looking across the sector using the measure of free school meals (FSM), only 26% of FSM students continue to higher education, compared to 45% of non-FSM students.

Key barriers for Access UCL students include: 

  • Often the first in their family to attend university: first generation university students may require more information and support to navigate the university system. This is because they don’t have people at home to pass on first-hand knowledge and may lack a direct contact in higher education to ask for advice. 
  • Imposter syndrome / lack of belonging: while anyone can experience ‘imposter’ feelings, minority groups can be particularly vulnerable to self-doubt and feeling that they do not truly belong in high achieving environments. This can have a real impact on educational success. 

Student Success Interventions

The Student Success Office provides numerous intervention to help Access UCL students:

  • Offer holder communications: offer-holders receive emails about student support services and funding at UCL 
  • Pre-enrolment events: after A level confirmation, incoming first year students are invited to an online pre-enrolment event where staff from various support services introduce their departments and outline what students can expect when they join UCL. 
  • Access UCL Pre-Enrolment Programme: currently, there is a pilot program for a select number of departments, where students can participate in a week-long series of online and in-person sessions. This programme familiarises students with UCL, their academic department, and academic writing before starting their course.
  • Access UCL Event Series: throughout the academic year, the Student Success Office will host a series of events to provide support and key advice for students. More information about these events will be available soon and they will be promoted to students through email and the Student Success Office's social media channels.
  • Newsletter: students in the Access UCL cohort will receive regular newsletters from the Student Success Office with information about opportunities that are available to them from across the university.