Sutton Trust report on personal statements

06 December 2012

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“As our universities make very clear on their websites and elsewhere, personal statements are primarily an opportunity for applicants to show their academic interests and reasons for wanting to study a particular subject. Work experience and extra-curricular activities should be a relatively small component of this and are rarely a major factor in admissions decisions.

“We agree with the Sutton Trust that it’s really important that students receive high-quality information, advice and guidance, including on writing personal statements. 

“For that reason Russell Group universities provide outreach activities and give lots of help and advice to teachers, especially those working in deprived areas, and have also organised free conferences for teachers.

“Our admissions tutors are expert professionals who take into account a wide range of factors to give applicants every opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and interests in the subject.

“Some departments also interview candidates or ask them to sit additional tests, particularly for the most competitive courses. Others take into account any particular barriers an individual may have faced during their education such as spending time in care.

“The candidate's academic success is therefore considered in a broader context, and our universities are skilled at assessing applicants individually and holistically to identify real talent and potential.

“We want every students with the qualifications, potential and determination to succeed at a Russell Group university to have the opportunity to do so whatever their background. The root causes of the under-representation of students from poorer backgrounds are underachievement at school, poor advice on the best choices of A-level subjects and university degree course and lower aspirations.”

Notes to editors

  1. For examples of university guidance on personal statements see the University of Leeds and Cardiff University websites.

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