University of Surrey Contextual Offer

Hello! I’m Caitlin, a second-year Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Surrey. I was granted a contextual offer by Surrey, so I thought it would be a lovely idea to give you a little insight into what they are about and my personal experience in the hope that it may answer some of your queries and/or encourage you to apply for one too!

Contextual offers

A contextual offer is designed to acknowledge ‘hurdles’ that may have impacted your education and results and make adjustments accordingly, so that you have a fair chance of being accepted for your dream course at your dream university. This could include:

  • A reduced offer – typically a grade or two lower than advertised in the course entry requirements.
  • An offer of a place on a course with a foundation year.
  • A guaranteed interview.
  • An unconditional offer.
  • A course with additional support to help you reach your full potential.
  • Giving your application extra consideration when making you an offer.


  • Where you live – if you live in an area where there is a high level of deprivation, or a low number of people going to university. This is usually decided by your postcode. You can check your postcode on the Office for Students’ website.
  • Your school or college – if your school’s academic performance is lower than the national average, or a small number of pupils go on to higher education.
  • If you have participated in certain outreach programmes.
  • Household income – if your total household income is lower than average.
  • Parental education – if your parents did not attend university.
  • If you have spent time in local authority care, such as a foster home, residential children’s home or kinship care.
  • If you are estranged from your parents – if your relationship has broken down leading to no contact.
  • If you have caring responsibilities – those who are unpaid carers for a family member or friend.
  • If you have a disability or mental health condition – including learning differences and long-term health conditions.

My experience

During my A-Levels, I was granted rest breaks and a small room provision for anxiety that hindered my exam performance. Thanks to my contextual offer, this is a provision I have carried on into my degree with Surrey’s Disability and Neurodiversity team.

Based in the library, the team offer appointments with a Disability Advisor to create a tailored Learning Support Agreement. They also have close contacts with our Exams, Graduation and Accommodation teams, the Centre for Wellbeing and each of the academic departments, so they can help you access these services if needed.

When I was in Year 13, I ensured my UCAS application included the above information under the ‘Supporting Information’ section. This meant that when I applied to Surrey, I had a lower grade offer compared to my coursemates. This safety net took an immense weight off my shoulders when I took my A-Level exams, leaving me feeling more confident in myself and my performance. In the end, I didn’t actually need the reduced grade offer, but having the contextual offer in place minimised my anxious thoughts considerably.

I am now in my second year of my Aerospace Engineering degree and couldn’t be happier! Not only did Surrey support me with the transition between A-Levels and university, but they have also continually alleviated any stresses surrounding exams and will continue to do so until I graduate.

Support on offer at Surrey

There are numerous support systems in place for students at Surrey. These include:

  • The Hive – open 8:30am-11:30pm 365 days a year, they can be contacted via email at or via phone number at 01483 686868.
  • The Centre for Wellbeing – open 8am-5pm Monday-Friday, you can book an appointment with them at or over the phone at 01483 689498.
  • The Disability and Neurodiversity team – found on the 1st floor of the library, they can be contacted via email at or via phone number at 01483 689609.
  • The library – open 24/7 365 days a year, they can be contacted via email at or via phone number at 01483 689235.

Hopefully I’ve answered some of your queries surrounding contextual offers!

You can find out more about contextual offers on Surrey’s website and UCAS’ website.