Skip to main content

Levelling Up: Essential Criteria

Levelling Up: Aspire Higher Criteria - Eligibility & Selection

All applicants should be interested in finding out more about studying a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths) subject at Durham University and finding out about what the University has to offer. As places are limited and highly sought after, we will use the eligibility and selection criteria to help us identify those applicants who we feel will benefit the most from the programme. Successful applicants are not required to choose Durham University through UCAS, however, one of the aims of the programme is to support students in their pursuit of a place at Durham University and we ask that applicants take this into consideration when choosing to apply.


Essential Criteria:

You can participate in Levelling Up: Aspire Higher if you:

  • Are in Year 12 (the first year of your A-level studies);
  • Studying the following A-level (or equivalent) for each programme:
    • For Chemistry - Chemistry AND Maths
    • For Maths - Maths AND AS*Further Maths

(*please click here for information to apply to study Maths at Durham)

  • For Physics - Physics AND Maths

(These requirements are based on the entry requirements for our equivalent undergraduate programmes. As Levelling Up: Aspire Higher is designed to support students who are aspiring to study Chemistry, Maths or Physics at university, it is important for us to make sure you will be able to meet such requirements further down the line);

  • Have achieved at least eight GCSEs or equivalent at grade 6 or above (or e.g. B, Distinction), including at least three at grade 7 or above (or e.g. A, A* or Distinction) and a strong level of achievement for relevant subjects;

Additionally, we may prioritise applicants meeting some of the following (please note, this list is in no particular order):

  • Levelling Up: Aspire Higher is aimed primarily at students from the North East. We have loosely defined 'the North East’ as being within 50 miles and/or one hour or less travel time from Durham City. However, we will consider applications on a case-by-case basis;
  • Come from neighbourhoods with low overall progression rates to higher education or high levels of financial, economic or social deprivation.To meet this criterion students will need to be either:
  1. Quintile 1 (POLAR4);
  2. Quintile 2 (POLAR4) AND ACORN category 4 or 5.

For further information see: and

Note: we will identify POLAR and ACORN values using your home post code that you provide in your application form.

  • Are in receipt of, or entitled to, Free School Meals, Pupil Premium funding and/or discretionary school/college payments, which are directly linked to financial hardship;
  • Be currently living in the UK and have been for a minimum of three years prior to the time of application as well as having UK nationality OR settled status, such as, indefinite leave to remain in the UK, except where residence in the UK is wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education.
  • Have experienced significant educational disruption, for example if you have been in local authority care or under a Care Order for at least three months prior to starting Year 12 (i.e. you are a care leaver) or are irreconcilably estranged from both parents/carers;

For care experience, the three months do not need to be consecutive and needn't be the three months immediately prior to Year 12.

By irreconcilably estranged we mean a student who has limited/sporadic or no contact with either of their biological/legally adopted parents. This includes living away from parents and receiving no emotional or financial support.

All applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. If there is additional context pertaining to the above or any other form of educational disruption that you think may be relevant to your LU: AH application, please get in touch with us by email and/or encourage your teacher to include this as part of their verification.

  • Within the first generation in their family to attend university;
  • Attend schools or colleges with a low overall GCSE and/or A-level point score and/or schools or colleges with low progression rates to higher education.

Please see

Note: we will identify progression rates based on the school details you provide in your application form.

Additionally, we use school data available to us through the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) to assess progression rates (e.g. POLAR 4 data).

These criteria are used to identify students with merit and potential who are currently under-represented in Higher Education and at Durham University. Additionally, as black and minority ethnic (BAME) applicants are underrepresented at Durham, and female students in STEM subjects, we particularly welcome applications to Levelling Up: Aspire Higher from BAME and female students.

Levelling Up: Aspire Higher also welcomes applications from disabled students and makes reasonable adjustments to facilitate access to all Levelling Up: Aspire Higher activities and the University.