When a storm seems to be brewing around the use of contextual data in admissions, and the right-wing media and MPs are slinging accusations of social engineering it's important we have our facts straight about what contextual data is and how it used.
This briefing gives you the ten things you need to understand about contextual data and how it is used in admissions to higher education.
In summary, contextual information is used to support high-quality admissions in a wide range of ways. It can support widening participation but is by no means the sole factor that is taken into account in making admissions decisions, and should be seen as one of a range of measures to support WP not the sole solution.
Institutions cannot be compelled to use contextual data, but most do in some form or another. However, institutions need to continue to improve their practice in the use of contextual data, build the evidence base and become more transparent in articulating to prospective students and their advisors how this data is used and how it can support progression to higher education.
Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) is the organisation with the best knowledge of admissions practice in the UK, and their website contains a wealth of further information including a February 2012 report into the different ways that institutions use contextual data in admissions.