At the end of October, Cardiff University agreed to implement all five of Cardiff Parent Power’s asks in their Contextual Admissions campaign, including having clear information on contextual admissions in the 2025 prospectus and sharing information at outreach events for local pupils.
We spoke to Community Organiser for Cardiff Parent Power, Attia Gillani, who shared their reflections on the process of working with a university partner to create change, including the three key lessons they picked up while organising during this campaign.
Cardiff Parent Power’s campaign was born out of a realisation that many local parents either weren’t aware of contextual admissions offered by universities or weren’t able to access information on it. This meant that, for many of the parent leaders, the process of campaigning was also a process of learning.
However, this didn’t mean that the campaign was structured around a traditional teacher-pupil relationship, whereby the person that holds the knowledge shares it with those who don’t.
Instead, the campaigning process centred the knowledge and lived experience of our parents. While some parents didn’t have detailed technical knowledge of contextual admissions, they had a deep understanding of the needs of their own community. This meant that the campaign was an iterative, two-way learning process for all involved.
Our parent leaders brought their own lived experience and knowledge to the table, the value of which was recognised by Cardiff University, who were able to offer their subject-matter expertise and power to create change in return.
Cardiff Parent Power
Drawing on their lived experience, parent leaders from the BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) community in Cardiff were able to share with the university that they were uncomfortable sharing their background information during the application process out of fear of being discriminated against. However, the sharing of such information would be essential to enable the benefits of contextual admissions to be realised.
Once both groups had worked together to accurately identify the problem, parents and community organisers at Cardiff Parent Power came together to discuss what change they wanted to see. They met with the Admissions and Outreach teams at Cardiff University with five asks:
Ask 1: Add a bold and clear section with information on contextual admissions at the beginning of the Cardiff University prospectus, and ensure that the opportunities that contextual admissions create for eligible students are explained.
Win 1: Cardiff University will include this in the 2025 prospectus, and the undergraduate applying page on their website has already been updated.
Ask 2: Include bold and clear course-specific information on contextual admissions and contextual offers where applicable in course profile.
Win 2: Channels for obtaining feedback on the accessibility of new webpages have been established, and the university are ensuring information relating to contextual admissions stands out on course pages.
Ask 3: Create outreach events for pupils in local schools, especially multicultural ones, which explain that pupils can apply to university using contextual admissions.
Win 3: Cardiff University staff are now encouraged to promote the updated contextual admissions page, and this information is explained at all outreach events.
Ask 4: Ensure the School Liaison team are consistently visiting Cardiff schools and sharing relevant information about university, UCAS applications and summer schools.
Win 4: The School Liaison team at the University are frequently undertaking school visits and sharing up to date information.
Ask 5: Create a video about contextual admissions to share on Cardiff University’s website, featuring current students who received contextual offers.
Win 5: The university is planning the video as part of its longer-term goals to promote contextual offers.
Cardiff Parent Power’s campaign originated from a place of curiosity about contextual admissions. As explained by Attia, ‘a discussion in a meeting turned into an email that turned into a meeting that turned into a yes to a campaign ask’. By being proactive and leveraging the relationships that they had worked hard to build, rather than simply passively accepting the information that was given to them, parents in Cardiff were able to win better educational opportunities for their young people.
Throughout the campaign, Cardiff University were able to better understand the needs of the community that they were working to serve, as well as building trust within . Reflecting on the campaign, Nia Oatley, Communities Manager at The Brilliant Club, said: ‘It’s inspiring to see Cardiff Parent Power parent leaders draw on lived experience to inform and shape the admissions and widening participation policies at Cardiff University to benefit future generations of underrepresented communities across Wales.’
You can find the tool developed by The Sutton Trust support students to find which universities offer contextual offers here.