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The term ‘widening participation’ in relation to recruitment refers to the drive to improve access to university for students from disadvantaged backgrounds or from groups traditionally under-represented in Higher Education. 

The Office for Students (OfS) has challenged all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to reduce and eliminate any gaps in participation between different minority groups and the wider population, within the next 5-10 years. To this end St Mary’s, like every other university, is required to produce an Access and Participation Plan, which outlines our targets, strategies and the actions we will take and as such, is our main vehicle for demonstrating how we will develop, improve and sustain our practice in this area. 

All of the work that we undertake in Widening Participation across the student lifecycle is overseen by the Head of Widening Participation, Nikki Anghileri (contact details below). However, the work to reduce gaps in access and opening our degree offer to as wide a group of students as possible is largely undertaken by our recruitment and admissions teams.

Our APP for 2019/20 and 2020-2024 can be found below:

In order to ensure that we can offer places to any students who has the potential to thrive in Higher Education, regardless of their background or previous academic experiences, we operate a 'contextualised admissions' process.

Contextualised Admissions

St Mary’s University has inclusiveness as one of its core values and is committed to widening participation.  We actively encourage applications from a wide range of students as we firmly believe that helping more people from a wide mix of backgrounds to access education contributes positively to individuals and society.

To support this and counter any disadvantage, we take several factors into account when we are deciding whether to offer students a place on one of our courses. This means that as well as looking at their application form and academic potential, we also take into account educational and socio-economic background data, such as historic information about their school or college and information they may choose to share about their personal circumstances, for example age, whether they declare a disability, whether they have spent time in care, the area in which they live* and the relative performance of the school or college attended. We call this a contextualised admissions approach.

The additional information gained through examining contextual data supports our Admissions teams to recognise a student’s achievements and identify their potential to succeed in the context of their background and experience, rather than simply by their exam results. For example, students who fit into any of the categories above may also have their application forms reviewed by the academics on the chosen programme, who will give careful consideration to information in the personal statement and references which might help them identify potential. Individualised offers may then be made on the basis of this process.

*The postcode that you have provided as your home address will be considered using the HEFCE POLAR4 Low Participation Neighbourhood (LPN) data.

If you have any queries relating to contextual data in relation to admissions, please email

If you have any queries relating to WP recruitment, please email

 If you have any general queries about our work in relation to access in widening participation, please email or call 020 8240 4238

Access to HE Diploma - OCN 

We welcome and celebrate a diverse student community at St Mary's University. This is why we are setting up a progression agreement with the OCN London to say that we formally recognise all OCN Access to HE Diplomas, across all of our Academic Departments. In addition to our admissions approach, this progression agreement sets out how we facilitate entry to our undergraduate courses for all Access to HE students.

View the Progression Agreement