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Contextual admissions

BA (Hons) Fine Art, London College of Communication. Photo by Ana Escobar

We’re looking for students with the most potential for our pre-degree and undergraduate courses.

We know that sometimes your personal circumstances – the school or college you go to, the opportunities and support you’ve had – might make it harder for your potential to stand out when you apply for university. We want to make sure that everybody gets assessed fairly, based on your creative potential. Our Contextual Admissions process helps us make sure this happens.

Who does it apply to?

To start with, you need to be a UK-based student (with home fee status), applying for our Foundation Diploma in Art and Design or any of our undergraduate courses to start in 2021.

When you apply, our system will use the information in your UCAS application to look at whether you:

  1. have spent time in care;
  2. are from an area in England in quintiles 1 and 2 of the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) which measures deprivation in England;
  3. are from an area in the UK with a low rate of participation in higher education POLAR (POLAR version 4 quintiles 1 and 2);
  4. have come through UAL’s Outreach Insights programme;

If our system tells us that you meet one or more of these criteria, a flag will appear on your application to show our academics that you qualify for a Contextual Admissions application.

What are the benefits?

If your application is flagged as a Contextual Admissions application, our academics will give it careful consideration. This means they’ll be mindful about your personal circumstances and the opportunities you may have had as outlined in the above criteria 1 to 4. When they look at your UCAS application and portfolio, they will consider each aspect of your UCAS form carefully in context to make sure your potential gets noticed.

The Office for Students is concerned with how students’ access to higher education can be "affected by a range of circumstances". By using contextual admissions, the Office for Students advises university admissions teams to "identify applicants with the greatest potential to succeed". UAL is aligned with this approach and through the use of contextual admissions is actively rethinking how we judge merit. This is particularly important for the creative subjects that we offer at UAL.

How does it work?

  1. If applying for an undergraduate course, choose your course and apply through UCAS in the normal way by 15 January 2021. After you apply, UCAS forwards your application form to us – you won’t have to tell us anything extra as we’ll have all the information we need. If applying for the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, apply directly via the apply link on the course page.
  2. After you have  submitted your application, you will receive an email confirming we have received your application and providing you with your login details for the UAL Portal. We will request any additional information from you, including inviting you to upload documents / portfolio / book an interview, through the portal. You should check your UAL Portal regularly for any important updates and requests.
  3. If you’re eligible for contextual admissions, we’ll automatically add a flag to your application so our academics know to give it careful consideration. They will consider each aspect of your UCAS form carefully in context.
  4. We will notify you of the outcome of your application through UCAS track.
If you have a specific question, please email us at
  • Photo of colourful pieces of art hanging on a white background
    Credit: Marlee King, Foundation Diploma Art & Design 2015 Marlee King, Foundation Diploma Art & Design 2015,
  • Photo of two women working on a piece of brown material
    Emilia Harris with technician Sara Grundy, BA (Hons) Theatre & Screen: Costume Interpretation, Wimbledon College of Arts,
  • Photo of a woman sitting against a colourful background
    Peihang Huang, MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Arts. Photographer Ivan Jones,