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Ulster University is welcoming and inclusive with a reputation for widening access to higher education and increasing social mobility.

As a civic university we are committed to providing learning opportunities for everyone with the ability to benefit from them, and we excel in participation by those in society who are under-represented in universities generally.

One of the means by which the University assures that it is widening access and participation is through its annual Widening Access and Participation Plan.

The contents of this plan are audited by government to ensure that reinvestment of a proportion of the additional tuition fee paid by students is administered wisely, effectively and in accordance with the Higher Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005.

The University’s Widening Access and Participation Plan for 2020/21 is available here:

HE Participation Numbers

The diagram below illustrates the University’s long-standing success in attracting students from the full range of socioeconomic backgrounds

Participation Numbers

Maintaining Widening Access and Participation

To maintain our success in widening access and to improve participation by enrolment further, the University, through the Widening Access and Participation Plan, has identified the following priorities:

  1. Maintaining our reach and impact on under-represented groups.
  2. Aligning resources to targeted interventions and our targets.
  3. Improving conversion from our outreach to enrolments for hard-to-reach learners.
  4. Maintaining Ulster's Access Bursary.
  5. Maintaining direct expenditure across outreach to schools and communities and direct financial support to students at levels greater than the statutory minimum.

Planned Expenditure for Outreach and Financial Support

Activity Actual spend 2017/18 (£) Estimated spend 2020/21 (£)
Activity Actual spend 2017/18 (£) Estimated spend 2020/21 (£)
Bursaries £1.69 million £2.12 million
Other Financial Support £0.03 million £0.16 million
Outreach £0.96 million £1.30 million


Ulster's Access Bursary

Ulster's Access Bursaries are available to NI-domiciled students who pay the full rate tuition fee and who have a household income of less than £19,203.

Each eligible student will receive bursary equivalent to 10% of the tuition fee.

In addition, a £1,000 bursary is available to students from a background of care.

This may be paid in addition to Ulster's Access Bursary.

The Accommodation Voucher scheme

The Accommodation Voucher scheme was introduced 2018/19 to encourage students from lower income households to apply for university-approved purpose built student accommodation.

Up to 100 eligible students can have their Access Bursary (currently of value £416) converted to an accommodation voucher of £1,000 on a first come, first served basis.

This award is only open to students new to the University, for the first year in university-approved purpose built student accommodation, who have applied for and accepted University-approved accommodation and who also meet the criteria for the Access Bursary. The support is in the form of credit to accommodation costs.

Special funds

Outside these main bursaries of the Widening Access and Participation Plan, a substantial number and level of special funds are administered for eligible students.

Further details can be found at:

Other Direct Financial Support

Fee waivers are available for eligible participants in modular flexible learning within the Certificate of Personal and Professional Development.

This provides new opportunities for individuals and organisations to develop tasters and a flexible pathway to higher education for young people and adults not in education, employment or training.


This entails an extensive schools and community programme of educational aspiration and attainment raising, including:

  • lectures
  • laboratory activities
  • mentored projects
  • interactive workshops
  • summer schemes
  • large-scale events and competitions
  • school visits and validated voluntary tutoring roles in schools

These are designed for primary, post-primary, and special needs schools, their teachers, pupils and parents in some cases.