Contextual Admissions Policy


Queen Margaret University is fully committed to the provision of equality of opportunity within the admissions process. We recognise that applicants may have received different levels of support, guidance and educational opportunity prior to applying for higher education. 

Although academic attainment is an important factor is assessing applications, we consider a range of factors when making admissions decisions. Each application received by the University is considered carefully on its own merits. This Contextual Admissions Policy aims to take into account the context of an applicant’s academic achievement, giving consideration to a range of factors which may impact on attainment.

Admissions Principles

The University is committed to equality of opportunity. We seek to promote diversity amongst our students, staff and applicants. We recognise the particular contributions that are made by individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, to the achievement of our vision and strategic objectives. We aim to promote entry to a diverse range of students, whatever their background. 

The University seeks to provide access to its courses from as wide a range of entrants as possible, subject to the essential principle that entrants have a reasonable expectation of completing their course successfully within the normal duration of the course.

Use of contextual data in admissions

We aim to take account of the context of an applicant’s academic achievements, giving consideration to a range of factors which may impact on attainment. We consider you to be a widening access student if you:

- live in a target postcode area which identifies you as living in an area of high deprivation (most deprived 20% in Scotland) as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Visit to see if you live in a target postcode area; 

- are eligible and have taken part in the Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS) or 

- are care experienced. 

We will also consider you to be a widening access student if you inform us in your application that: 

  •  you have caring responsibilities;
  • you are estranged from your family or
  • you are an armed forces/ex-military veteran.
  • you are participating in the FOCUS West Top-Up Programme
  • you are holding an immigration permission which confirms you are a refugee; an asylum seeker or in one of the Ukraine Schemes (Ukrainian Family Scheme; Homes for Ukraine Scheme; or Ukraine Extension Scheme)

Data sources

To consider the context of an application, we use data from a range of sources including; the Scottish Government, UCAS, partner widening participation programmes, and the information given in the application itself.

  • The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is the Scottish Government's official tool for identifying those places in Scotland suffering from deprivation. Applicants living in an area of high deprivation, as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) will be identified through the home postcode given in their application.1
  • LEAPS is a widening participation programme, funded by higher education institutions and local council partners, to increase progression to higher education in South East Scotland. LEAPS offers different levels of support to students, based on individual eligibility and whether their school is classified as LEAPS Group 1+, LEAPS Group 1, or LEAPS Group 2. Applicants who have participated in the LEAPS programme will be identified from the information they provide in their UCAS application. See the LEAPS website for further information:  
  • If an applicant has spent time in care, this should be identified by the applicant in the UCAS application. We strongly encourage applicants who have spent time in care to declare this as part of their application. 

The term care-experienced refers to anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked-after background at any stage in their life, no matter how short, including adopted children who were previously looked-after. This care may have been provided in a one of many different settings such as in residential care, foster care, kinship care, or through being looked after at home with a supervision requirement.2

  • If an applicant has caring responsibilities, this should be identified by the applicant in the personal statement of their UCAS application. A student carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.3
  • If an applicant is estranged, this should be identified by the applicant in the personal statement in their UCAS application. We strongly encourage applicants who are estranged to declare this as part of their application.

An estranged student is someone who no longer has the support of their family due to breakdown in their relationship which has led to ceased contact. This might mean biological or adoptive parents or wider family members who have been responsible for supporting a student in the past. Estranged students have no experience of being in care and do not have a corporate parent responsible for them.4

  • If an applicant is an armed forces/ex-military veteran, this should be identified by the applicant in the personal statement of their UCAS application.

Minimum offer requirements

Admissions decisions are made on an individual basis. We aim to identify each applicant’s full talent and potential and look beyond grades to do this. All applicants are expected to show interest in the subject area and evidence of motivation to study the course applied for, demonstrated in the personal statement.

The qualifications and grades an applicant requires will vary by course and may also depend on whether they are a widening access student. Where a widening access student is eligible to be made an offer of admission for level 1 of a programme, this will be at the level of the ‘minimum’ Scottish Higher entry requirements. Entry requirements are published on the individual course pages on our website and within our prospectus.

The University guarantees to make an offer of admission, or an offer of an interview or audition to any care experienced student or any student from a LEAPS Group 1+ school who has the potential to meet the ‘minimum’ entry requirements for a programme. While we will try wherever possible to guarantee applicants either an interview or a place on the specific course they have applied to, this will not be possible in every circumstance. If we cannot offer an interview or place on the specific course an applicant has applied to, we will endeavour to offer an interview or place on an alternative programme in a related subject instead. It may not be possible to offer an applicant an interview or place on their chosen course for one of the following reasons: it is a course with lots of applicants and not many places; or places are strictly limited by the Scottish Government (e.g. teacher training, nursing, paramedic science). 

Alternative routes to Higher Education

The University welcomes applications from students studying a broad range of qualifications.  We have established articulation agreements with local colleges for applicants wishing to apply for advanced entry with HNC and HND qualifications.

We also welcome applications from students that have studied a Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) programme at one of Scotland’s colleges.

If an applicant does not have the minimum entry requirements, but has relevant experience and can demonstrate that there is a reasonable expectation that they will complete the course, then it may still be possible to consider them. Mature applicants who have no formal qualifications or have been out of formal education for some time are strongly encouraged to contact our Widening Participation and Outreach team to discuss appropriate pathways to study: 

Confirmation of exam results

Upon confirmation of SQA exam results, final admissions decisions will be taken on an individual basis, taking into account any contextual factors alongside the qualifications and grades achieved by an applicant.

Support for applicants

The University offers a wide range of services to support our students with the transition to university study. Full details can be found on the Student Services page on our website. Services include:

  • The Effective Learning Service (ELS), which offers free, confidential support and advice on study skills
  • The Disability Service provides advice, guidance and support to students throughout their studies
  • Tailored transition support programmes for entrants from groups identified in this policy

In addition, the University recognises that some applicants may require additional advice and support during the pre and post entry transition period. All applicants who have identified as care experienced, estranged from their families or who are student carers, and who receive an offer of admission from QMU will be contacted and offered additional support from our QMCares service 

Policy review

The Contextual Admissions Policy is approved by the Student Experience Committee and any changes or updates will be approved by that committee. The Head of Admissions is responsible for the operation of the policy and for its regular monitoring and review. The policy will be reviewed annually. The University will monitor the outcomes of students admitted to study on the basis of contextual factors, and this information will be used to develop future policy.

September 2023

Karen McGregor, Head of Admissions