Selling Themselves Short: How Inclusive is the UCAS Application Process to Non-traditional Students?

  • Rachel L. Dunn Durham University
  • Stephen J. Faulkner London South Bank University
Keywords: admissions; mature students; UCAS; personal statements; inclusivity; access.


Discussions around inclusive admissions traditionally concern widening access and enabling students from underrepresented groups to enter university. However, the actual process of applying via UCAS is rarely considered. In this study, we address the question, ‘how inclusive is a UCAS personal statement?’ We consider the challenges of applying to university and writing a personal statement from the perspective of mature, former foundation students. By drawing on existing literature, personal statements and student experiences, we highlight the lack of inclusivity. The primary thesis is that the current incarnation of the personal statement needs adjustment as it is not equitable and can marginalise applicants. The study makes suggestions for improving the system and increased information, advice and guidance for applicants.


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Author Biographies

Rachel L. Dunn, Durham University

Rachel Dunn joined the Foundation Programme at Durham University in 2010. She is an Assistant Professor (Teaching) and Course Co-ordinator for Science. She has been involved with the Foundation Year Network for a number of years and since 2018 has been the Workshop Co-ordinator and organises the Coffee Morning Series. She joined the Executive Committee in 2019. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and her research interests focus on widening participation, mature students, problem-based learning and student support. Email:

Stephen J. Faulkner, London South Bank University

Steve Faulkner has lectured on the Extended Degree Programme in Engineering in the School of Engineering at London South Bank University for almost 27 years and has been the Course Director for 10 years. He has been a member of the Foundation Year Network for 8 years, this is his fifth year on the Executive Committee and fourth as Treasurer. He was elected as a board member for the Engineering Professors’ Council in May 2019. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and his research interests focus on widening participation, mature students, foundation year studies, student support and technical subjects at foundation level. Email: