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Recruitment and admissions in higher education

Equitable student recruitment is key to advancing opportunity and creating a diverse student population.

Legal Background

The Equality Act makes it unlawful for HEIs to discriminate against or victimise students during the admissions cycle, for example in:

  • deciding who is offered admission as a student
  • the terms of an offer made to a student
  • deciding not to admit a person as a student

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 will also place specific duties on certain HEIs to make available and publish key statistics relating to student admissions including:

  • The number of applications for admission on to higher education courses that the provider has received;
  • the number of offers made by the provider in relation to those applications;
  • the number of those offers that were accepted;

including reference to one or more (if requested by the Office for Students) of the following:

  • the gender of the individuals to which they relate;
  • their ethnicity;
  • their socio-economic background

However Advance HE recommends monitoring and considering a wide range of student characteristics and backgrounds to ensure a supportive and inclusive experience for all students. For more guidance on additional equality monitoring opportunities see Advance HE’s guidance: Equality Data collection, monitoring and disclosure

Wider Benefits

There are a wide range of benefits to ensuring equitable admissions policies and practices:

  • Equitable admissions processes can increase and maintain student numbers by building a reputation as an institution that is actively working towards providing opportunities and access to a broad range of students. Being mindful of the different needs of students and offering a welcome recruitment and admissions experience may also assist conversion rates, and start a positive relationship with future students and alumni.
  • Student satisfaction. A diverse student body brings with it a range of skills and experience which adds to the learning experience and may improve student satisfaction.
  • Advancing institutional values and mission statements. Actively reviewing, refining, marketing and implementing equitable admissions practice and policies will help to demonstrate that the institution is ethical, open, respectful and responsive to a diverse student body.

Ensuring processes are fair and equitable

Advance HE worked with SPA: Supporting professionalism in admissions in 2012 to consider embedding equality in admissions. The project identified four recommendations to achieve fair and equitable admissions:

  • Identify areas where discrimination could potentially occur
  • Establish mechanisms to ensure the admissions process is consistent and non-discriminatory
  • Provide effective channels of communication to internal and external audiences
  • Regularly undertake reviews to assess and advance effectiveness of policy and practice

Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA)

SPA works closely with universities and colleges to enhance good practice, excellence and professionalism in the recruitment and selection of students to higher education. SPA promotes fair admissions by researching and disseminating good practice and advice across the HE sector.

SPA: Supporting professionalism in admissions

Recent Publications

Equitable admissions for underrepresented groups

Ensuring admissions processes are equitable and free from inadvertent discrimination