Why does UCAS ask about my parent’s education?

Written by Calvin Bowers

Tackling a UCAS application can sometimes feel like a daunting task; there are many different sections, each needing specific details. One of the sections that often raises some questions is ‘additional information’, specifically regarding your parent’s education. In this guide, we will break down why they ask this question and why it’s important.

Additional information

The additional information section of a UCAS form is for UK students only and parts of it are mandatory. You must answer the questions regarding your ethnic origin, your national identity and your occupational background. UCAS uses this information solely for monitoring purposes and will not influence your application’s outcome at all; universities and colleges only see this information after they have made their decision.

There are then three questions which you do not have to answer also used for monitoring purposes. These questions ask about your sexuality, religious beliefs and gender identity. They also have no impact on your application’s outcome. UCAS does not send the responses to universities or colleges until after you have been offered a place.

The form will then ask you about your individual circumstances. You do not have to list any information here if you don’t want to. UCAS allows you to talk about whether you have been in care and any widening participation activities. As well as your parent, parents’ or carers’ education.

UCAS asks for this information because they want to give you the chance to put your application into some context. They will pass on any information you give in this section to universities alongside your application. In the hope that it might help them understand more about you and your background.

Contextualised admissions 

By asking this information, universities can understand what barriers students have had to face in their lives that might make securing a place at university even harder. Not everybody has had the same opportunities and support throughout school and college, and therefore it’s unfair to judge all students against the same criteria.

‘Contextualised admissions’ is a phrase used to describe the process in which admissions teams decide on a student’s university offer in the context of their life. This gives students who may have faced some challenges a fairer chance of securing a place at university. The admissions team may be more accepting of a lower grade to secure their place, or they may offer an unconditional place.

Parents education 

It is widely recognised that those whose parents went to university are far more likely to go themselves. This is partly because parents who went to university themselves are likely to encourage it as an option for their child and support them through the process of applying and attending. Also, young people are influenced and inspired by the actions of those around them. For those students whose parents didn’t go to university, it would be more unlikely to see university as an option available to them.

As well as this, a university education can be used as an indicator of somebody’s socioeconomic status. This means that those students whose parents went to university are less likely to have faced financial difficulty, and are more likely to have been exposed to opportunities that will have helped them throughout their education.

UCAS are enquiring about your parent’s education to understand what additional circumstances may have either helped or hindered your chances of getting to university. This way, more students have a fairer chance of getting to university, whatever their background.

We have recently published a blog about first-generation students (those students who are the first in their family to go to university) and their challenges.


Last Updated: Monday November 29 2021
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