Parents & Carers

Realising Opportunities (RO) is an innovative national programme designed for students in Year 12 of sixth form or the first year of college to gain increased access to some of the country’s leading research intensive universities.

RO students will benefit from increased information, advice and access to the RO universities. The Programme they follow will ensure they are better equipped for university life and understand what research intensive universities can offer.

  • Advice on time management skills has helped a lot over the years

    RO student, 2011-2013

  • Being part of a research intensive university involves me in the most recent research in my subject area… which is crucial for a job market that constantly demands you to be up to date

    Nicola, RO Student 2010-2011

  • I feel more assured of my choice and confident in myself and my abilities

    RO student, 2012-2014

  • Any questions I had about university were answered

    Krupa, RO student 2010-2011

  • RO has encouraged me to work harder to achieve the grades I want so I can get into a research intensive university

    RO student, 2012-2014

  • RO has exposed me to a wider range of universities, and built my confidence

    RO student, 2012-2014

The Benefits

By taking part in the RO Programme you will benefit from the following:

Additional Consideration

When students apply to any of the RO universities, their UCAS application will be given additional consideration.

Alternative offer

Many of the RO universities also give alternative offers worth up to two grades lower than the standard offer to students who successfully complete the programme. All alternative offers given through UCAS are dependent on the university and course students apply for and it is recommended that students contact the university before they apply.

For more information about the recognition offered by the RO universities please refer to the Recognition Guide.

Skills Development

Students will learn and develop key skills that will help them to be successful in their current studies and also at university.

Students must complete an independent piece of research as part of the programme as well as an online study module giving them skills in researching, planning, critical thinking, analysis, and referencing.

Advice for the Future

Students will gain an understanding of what a research intensive university is and the benefits of studying at one. Through events and activities such as masterclasses and residential visits they will learn more about university life and their subject choices. Students are also allocated a dedicated ementor from one of the RO universities who will guide them through an interactive support programme and students will have access to a wide range of resources and activities on the ementoring site.

Access to Professional Careers Information

Students will have access to information and advice from a range of professionals and employee organisations, in the past we have worked with UKCAT, The Nuffield Foundation and Teach First. Please see the Organisations We Work With page for more information.

The Programme

Taking part in RO will give you access to:

A local launch event at your host university to get you started with RO and to meet university representatives.

Experiences and support to help you make an informed choice about higher education and research intensive universities.

A chance to develop your skills in analysis, critical thinking, evaluation and research through taking either the Extended Project Qualification (if offered at your school/college) or the RO Academic Assignment.

A dedicated ementor who is a current university student and will guide you through an interactive support programme. You’ll also have full use of our ementoring portal and Bright Knowledge Bank which is packed full of useful resources!

A National Student Conference where you’ll get the chance to meet students from across the country taking part in RO as well as all of the RO universities.

A wide range of events and activities at the RO universities. Support for travel costs may be available with prior arrangement.

Skills4uni - an online study skills module which will help you develop your planning and independent research skills.


RO is a targeted widening participation programme promoting fair access and social mobility to assist young people from underrepresented groups to gain access to some of the country’s leading research intensive universities. To do this we specifically target Year 12 students who meet the school/college and individual criteria below.

School criteria

In order to be eligible to apply for the RO programme students must:

  • Have attended a school that is performing below the national average for 5 A*- C at GCSE (including English and Mathematics) or below the national average Attainment 8 score per school, or
  • Be attending a school/college which is performing below the national average at key stage 5, or
  • Have attended a school where there is higher than the national average number of students eligible for free school meals.

Please note: our partner universities use this criteria to inform their decisions about which schools they work with on RO.

As an individual, students must meet all of the criteria in list A and at least two from list B^:

You must meet all of the following

  • Have achieved at least 8 A* to C or 9 – 4 grades at GCSE (or equivalent, e.g. GNVQ, BTEC Certificate) including English Language and Mathematics^.
  • Of these 8 GCSEs or equivalent, at least 5 must be at grade A*, A, B, 9, 8, 7 or 6^.
  • Be a Home/EU registered student, or expect to be by the time they apply for higher education.

You must meet at least two of the following^

  • Live in a neighbourhood which has a low progression rate to higher education or an area which has a high level of financial, social or economic deprivation. This is defined by home postcode (you can use the post code checker at the bottom of this section to check this).
  • Come from a home where neither parent attended university in the UK or abroad. (If one or more parent is currently studying their first degree, or graduated from their first degree within the last five years, an application will still be considered).
  • Be in receipt of or entitled to discretionary payments/16-19 bursary/Pupil Premium at school/college.
  • Be in receipt of or entitled to free school meals.
  • Alternatively if students are living in, or have lived in, local authority care or are a young carer** then they do not need to meet two of the criteria from list B.

^If students do not meet the prior attainment outlined in list A or at least two of the criteria outlined in list B, but have experienced difficult family or individual circumstances that may affect their performance in exams or the likelihood of them going to university, their application may still be considered on an individual basis. Circumstances considered include, but are not limited to, students who live independently from their families, those experiencing significant family issues or those students who have a disability/health condition which may have affected their educational achievements. Students should discuss this with their teacher/tutor before making an application.

**Those defined as living in, or who have lived in, local authority care are those who are being looked after by their local authority, either living with foster parents/other family members such as grandparents, at home with their parents under the supervision of social services, in a residential children’s home or in another residential setting such as school or secure unit, or someone who has experienced a period of three months in the care of the local authority within the last ten years. Those defined as young carers are those who are under the age of 18 who help look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. There is no time limit on the amount of care they provide for their dependents, this is just above and beyond what is normally expected.


This page contains resources to tell you more about the Realising Opportunities (RO) Programme, the RO universities and access to research intensive universities.

Many of the RO universities have further resources and information for Parents and Carers, please follow the links below to find out more.

Information for parents and carers

Information for parents

Information for parents and carers

Information for parents


Supporting your son or daughter

Information for parents and guardians

Information for parents and supporters

Information for parents and supporters


Information for parents

Information for parents

Information for parents and guardians

Information for parents and guardians


Information for parents and families

Information for parents


Resources for Parents and Carers

There are lots of useful resources about Higher Education available for parents and carers. You can find some links below.


Find advice to help you support students throughout the UCAS application cycle, including videos and tips for getting started.


The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) had a students and parents webpage with useful links and information.