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Fair access and excellent education for all

Fair Access at Durham University

At Durham University we are focused on providing the very best education and empowering our students to succeed. We welcome students from all backgrounds with merit and potential and we have robust systems in place to ensure our admissions process is fair and transparent.

Access Agreement 2018-19

Our new Access Agreement 2018-2019, agreed by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) reaffirms our commitment to widening participation in higher education. We are proud to be investing £11.5million in outreach, student success, progression and evaluation activities over the year. The agreement outlines a number of current initiatives - such as offering summer schools and developing partnerships with regional schools and academies - as well as new initiatives aimed at enrolling students from under-represented backgrounds and supporting them while they are here. Examples include:

  • Expanding the number of students on our flagship Supported Progression Scheme, using campus-based programs and projects to strengthen disadvantaged students in the transition from school to university;
  • Using contextual admissions to enable students with potential to attend Durham, including varying entry grade requirements by one or two grades to take account of disadvantage in the context of achievement;
  • Creating a Centre for Academic Development, using research-based innovations in teaching and learning to enhance the educational attainment of all students.

Enabling students to thrive

A Durham education is built on three principles; innovative teaching, a research-led curriculum and a vibrant wider student experience. Our admissions and access teams ensure that every admitted student has the potential to succeed. The decisions we make are research-led, data-driven and specific to the individual. On arrival at Durham, we work hard to ensure that every student thrives personally, intellectually and professionally.

A more radical approach to contextualised admissions – an essay written by Durham University academics

The recent essay A more radical approach to contextualised admissions by Durham University academics, Dr. Vikki Boliver, Professor Stephen Gorard and Dr. Nadia Siddiqui is an important contribution to national debates about how best to ensure fair access to higher education. The focal point of the essay is an argument concerning the need to make concessions on entry grade requirements. In making their case, the authors highlight the correlation between household income and school achievement, the need to supplement A-levels with information regarding student potential and ensuring that students admitted through access programmes have the academic support needed to thrive.

A commitment to fair access

These complex and challenging matters sit at the heart of fair access. Addressing them, in consultation with regional and national stakeholders, requires careful assessment of both applicants and institution to ensure that those with the potential to thrive are given the opportunity to do so.

Durham University is committed to that goal. Our new Access Agreement marks a step-change in our approach and in consultation with our partners we will build on progress we have made to date through experience, data and research.

Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Durham University