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Levelling Up: Aspire Higher - Eligibility & Selection Criteria


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:

  1. are in Year 12 in England or Wales, Year 13 in Northern Ireland, or S5 in Scotland (the first year of your A-level/equivalent studies)
  2. are currently living in the UK and have been for a minimum of three years prior to the time of application
  3. are a UK national or have “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
  4. are studying the following A-levels (or equivalent) for each programme (these requirements are based on the entry requirements for our equivalent Durham 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):
    • Chemistry programme - Chemistry AND Maths A Levels (or equivalent)
    • Maths programme - Maths AND AS* Further Maths A Levels (or equivalent) - please see the Durham Maths Undergraduate Course webpages for information about applying to study Maths at Durham
    • Physics programme - Physics AND Maths A Levels (or equivalent)
  5. 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. As the circumstances in which these grades were awarded are unprecedented, we will consider additional information from teachers if they believe these grades don't show a student’s true potential.

Additionally, we may prioritise applicants meeting some of the following criteria (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
  • Applicants that are in receipt of, or entitled to, Free School Meals or the 16-19 bursary
  • Applicants that 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 care experienced) (the three months do not need to be consecutive and needn't be the three months immediately prior to Year 12) or are irreconcilably estranged from both parents/carers. By irreconcilably estranged we mean that you have had no contact at all with any of your parents/carers for at least 12 months prior to starting Year 12 and that this is unlikely to change. Alternatively, you may be able to demonstrate your estrangement on other grounds e.g. exceptional circumstances. In either case, a supporting statement from your school or college will be required and applications will be 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.
  • Applicants that are within the first generation in their family to attend university

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

Note: we will identify POLAR and ACORN values using your home postcode that 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 underrepresented in higher education and at Durham University. Additionally, as Black heritage applicants, and female students in some STEM subjects, are underrepresented at Durham, we particularly welcome applications to Levelling Up: Aspire Higher from Black students of African, Caribbean, or dual heritage, 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.