Use of Contextual Data in the RNCM Admissions Process

The RNCM seeks to ensure that all applicants are assessed fairly and holistically, and therefore considers additional information that provides a more complete picture of the educational and social circumstances that underpin students’ applications and performance at audition.

We explain here the kind of information that the College uses and how this affects the process of selecting students for a course of study at the RNCM.

It should be noted that contextual data is never used to make allowances for applicants at audition and interview. The information is, however, intended to give audition panels the clearest picture of an applicant, and the context within which their musical achievements to date have occurred.

We use the following types of contextual data as a means of establishing the most in-depth profile of an applicant:

  • Geo-demographic data: the socio-economic characteristics of an applicant’s local area, and the rates of progression to higher education in an applicant’s local area
  • School/College data: the GCSE performance of an applicant’s school or college
  • Individual circumstances: whether an applicant has spent time in local authority care

The data used is derived either from publicly available sources, or from information provided by applicants in their application. These types of contextual data are presented to audition panels in the form of ‘flags’. Any application with one of more ‘flags’ will receive particularly careful attention.

We believe that using contextual data in this way helps us to continue to encourage and support applications from talented potential student musicians, regardless of background. Performance at audition remains central to admissions decisions – ‘flagged’ applications will not be prioritised over others.

Due to the availability and comparability of data, the use of contextual information will apply only to UK Home applicants.

Geo-Demographic Data From Postcodes

Geo-demographic data provide information to audition panels on the socio-economic characteristics prevalent in the area in which an applicant lives. A flag is appended to the application if an applicant’s postcode indicates that they are resident in an area with less advantaged socio-economic characteristics or relatively low participation in higher education. We use geo-demographic data to identify applicants that live in such areas:

  • Participation Of Local Areas (POLAR4) – a measure created by HEFCE which identifies electoral wards with relatively low levels of progression to higher education among young people

Click here for further information about the POLAR4.

While POLAR4 can successfully identify segments of the population that are currently under-represented in applications to the RNCM, we recognise that geo-demographic data does not provide a perfect indication of the socio-economic status or likelihood of participation in higher education for a neighbourhood, and we realise too that the circumstances of an individual are not necessarily the same as those of the area in which they live. Therefore, we take great care in the way in which we use this information, and don’t consider it in isolation from the rest of the application.

Information on Schools/Colleges

We also consider an applicant’s school/college at GCSE level which provides an indication of the context in which qualifications have been achieved.

Information on school/college performance at GCSE is prepared for us by the Admissions Testing Service, for English schools only. It allows assessors to see whether an applicant’s academic record was representative of the educational cohort in the institution in which they were prepared for GCSE examinations. Therefore, we look at the average capped GCSE points score per pupil in the school/college, and, if it falls below 40 points (out of a maximum of 64), a flag is appended to an application.

Individual Circumstances

We append a flag to applications if an applicant declares on their UCAS application that they have spent time in local authority care. We flag applications when time has been spent in local authority care because research has demonstrated that looked-after children may experience educational disadvantage.

Further Information

If you have any questions regarding the use of contextual data, please email admissions@rncm.ac.uk