School / Colleges

Realising Opportunities (RO) is an innovative national programme for eligible, talented students at targeted schools and colleges providing increased access to some of the country’s leading research intensive universities.

Realising Opportunities (RO) will give your students support during their post-16 studies to develop their skills to be successful at University.
The structured and interactive programme will help students to develop academic skills, increase their understanding of research intensive university, offer them a wide range of opportunities and experiences and increase their confidence to make informed decisions about their future.


The opportunities that these students are being offered are exciting, enriching and enlightening – they cannot fail to grow as individuals and be as informed as possible to make the right choices about their future, whatever that might bring for them.

Cohort 5 Vocational Tutor -

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 what research intensive universities can offer.

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 given 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 on the Resources page.

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.

To take part in the Realising Opportunities (RO) Programme students must meet our eligibility criteria. 
Applications to the RO Programme are made in the Autumn Term of Year 12.

Students must be in Year 12 at an eligible school or college which is participating in RO. They should check with their Head of Year/ Sixth Form or college tutor to find out if their school/college is participating in RO.


Students must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Have achieved at least 8 A* to C or 9 – 4 grades at GCSE (or equivalent, eg 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.

Students must also meet at least two of the following criteria^:

  • 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

  • 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.

Or alternatively meet the following:

  • Be living in, or have lived in, local authority care**

  • Or be a young carer.**

*Extenuating circumstances
If students do not meet the prior attainment outlined in step 2 or at least two of the criteria outlined in step 3, 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.

**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 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 section contains a number of resources that may be of interest to teachers who wish to know more about Realising Opportunities (RO) and for those of you who are currently supporting RO students.

Events and Activities
The RO universities have a wide programme of events and activities for students as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. To find out more about the events offered and to arrange an event for your students please follow the relevant links.

University of Birmingham –  information for teachers, careers advisors and parents
University of Bristol – working with schools and colleges
University of Exeter – information for teachers
Goldsmiths, University of London – information for schools and colleges
King’s College London – schools and colleges liaison
University of Leeds – information for teachers and advisors
University of Leicester – school and college services
University of Liverpool – information for schools and careers advisors
University of Manchester – information for teachers, advisors and parents
Newcastle University – information for schools and colleges
University of Sheffield – schools, colleges and community groups
University of Sussex– information for teachers and careers advisors
University of Warwick – outreach at Warwick
University of York – services for schools and colleges

Student Finance
For more information on Student Finance, you may find the following links useful:
Directgov’s Student Finance page
Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert Guide to Student Loans

Brightside Knowledge Bank

The Brightside Knowledge Bank has a wealth of resources including education pathways, study support, subject areas and student finance.

Informed Choices

This leaflet has been produced by the Russell group in collaboration with the Institute of Career Guidance and is aimed at all students considering A Level and equivalent options. It includes advice on the best subject combinations for a wide range of university choices as well as advice on the best choices fro students who don’t know what they want to study after school and need to keep their options open