Access and Widening Participation


Who we work with

The UCL Access and Widening Participation Office aims to ensure that all applicants have an equal chance of entering UCL, regardless of background, ethnicity, age or disability.

Our Approach to Access and Widening Participation

The UCL Access and Widening Participation Office aims to ensure that all applicants have an equal chance of entering UCL, regardless of background, ethnicity, age or disability.

To achieve these aims we design programmes to eliminate gaps in access between the most and least represented groups of students at UCL. 

We take an evidence-led approach and have identified three key barriers to university access, outlined below.

Key Barriers

Academic Attainment: Low academic attainment is one of the greatest barriers to access at UCL for students from the least represented groups. 

We work with schools and individual pupils to raise the attainment of the least represented groups at UCL and support them to achieve their academic potential.

Additionally we offer a contextual offer scheme, Access UCL, through which eligible applicants receive a reduced entry offer of up to two grades below the standard UCL offer.  For example, if the standard entry requirement for a particular programme is AAA, the Access UCL offer might be ABB. To find out more, visit Access UCL webpage.

Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG): Young people from the least represented groups in Higher Education are less likely to have access to the same IAG knowledge as their peers. 

Our programmes offer IAG for pupils, teachers and parents to increase knowledge of university application processes, pathways to university including support with choices, and life as a UCL student. 

Geographic Location: We run activities such as Summer Schools and work in partnership with other organisations to engage with students across the UK and increase our applicant pool.

We support pupils outside London through online and residential programmes as part of our national strand of access activity.

Our target groups

Pupils from state schools are eligible to attend UCL Access and Widening Participation programmes. 

Many of our programmes are over-subscribed so we use the following shortlisting criteria to prioritise young people from the least represented groups:

  1. Applicants who are attending non-selective, low performing state schools
  2. Applicants whose parents or carers did not attend university
  3. Applicants who are eligible for free school meals and pupil premium
  4. Applicants who live in neighbourhoods with low overall progression rates to higher education and high levels of deprivation, where young people are less likely to go on to higher education after they finish school
  5. Applicants from groups currently underrepresented in Higher Education and at UCL, i.e. forced migrants, young carers, students estranged from their families, care experienced students and disabled students
  6. Applicants from ethnic groups currently underrepresented at UCL, i.e. Black African and Black Caribbean students, White British students who meet our family and neighbourhood criteria and students from Gypsy and Traveller communities

For further information about the eligibility criteria for specific Access and Widening Participation programmes, please check the respective programme webpage.

Academic potential

The eligibility criteria around academic potential varies across the programmes offered and age groups. 

Therefore, we may ask applicants to provide details of a teacher who can give a reference to comment on your potential. 

For young people aged 16+ 

Applicants must have achieved at least five A*-B/9-6 grades at GCSE or the corresponding grades in qualifications accepted as GCSE equivalents.

Applicants must be likely to achieve a minimum of BBB at A level or at least 34 points at IB. This includes the equivalent grades at other UK qualifications including the Scottish Advanced Highers and Welsh Baccalaureate. 

Please note that for subject-specific activity, applicants must be on track to meet the degree programme's minimum entry requirements, which can be found on the top of each degree webpage on the UCL website.

Applicants must be taking at least two subjects from UCL's list of preferred A levels

Participant Selection

The way we recruit participants will vary according to the specific aims of the programme, the way it has been designed and the number of places available. This includes:

  • Open Applications: many of our programmes will require an application form to be completed, available via our website. Applicants will be selected based on the criteria specified in the list above and priority will be given to those who meet the highest number of criteria.
  • High Capacity Programmes: some online programmes can accommodate a larger number of participants. For these programmes we will offer a place to all eligible applicants who meet at least one of the criteria specified in points 2 to 6 of the list above.
  • School Recruitment: for some programmes we may select a number of our high priority schools and invite them to nominate participants who meet our criteria.
  • Attainment Raising Programmes: some programmes are designed to support participants in raising their attainment, for example in a specific subject. Additional attainment raising criteria will be considered when recruiting for these programmes.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

UCL’s Access and Widening Participation work is underpinned by a strong focus on evaluating the effectiveness of access programmes to ensure that they are meeting their objectives. This is vital for improving our programmes in the future. Our approach to monitoring and evaluation includes:

  • Collecting data from our programme participants through feedback surveys. This is so we can better understand how useful the programmes are, whether anything can be improved, and if they resulted in the desired outcomes. 
  • Tracking the long-term impact of attending our programmes through UCL admissions data to examine the numbers who enrol at UCL. We also use the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) to examine the number of participants who go on to any other Higher Education institution.
  • Measuring the impact of our programmes on participants’ attainment levels. Studying longer term outcomes of all eligible applicants to fully understand the impact of our Access and Widening Participation programmes. For example, we look at outcomes for those who were eligible for our programmes but were unsuccessful due to the limited number of places.
  • For some programmes we may conduct a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). This means eligible applicants are randomly assigned to either a group who gain a place on the programme, or a group who are unsuccessful in gaining a place. 

Feedback surveys and HEAT tracking for eligible applicants are standard across all of our programmes.

Individual programmes will provide further information on eligibility, how participants are selected and any additional evaluation methods such as RCTs.