Levelling Up Scheme

The University of Birmingham's Levelling Up programme is an online tutoring and mentoring opportunity for Year 12 students in STEM subjects. It is for school students currently in Year 12 and from a range of under-represented groups in higher education, who are interested in studying for degrees in maths, physics, chemistry or materials science.

Group of people sat in chairs looking right

Applications for the 2022/23 Levelling Up scheme are now closed. If you are interested in applying when the scheme reopens in late 2023, please let us know by completing our expression of interest form, and we will be in touch when applications open. Link to expression of interest form.

We hosted an online Q&A session on Wednesday 25 January 2023 at 16:00 GMT. Link to the session recording.

Levelling up provides online small group tutorials and mentoring in these subjects that supports A level study and prepares pupils to make excellent UCAS applications. Tutorials are led by undergraduate and postgraduate students from similar subject backgrounds who also act as mentors. 

As a participant you would start in the final term of Year 12 continuing into Year 13 and attend online sessions during the summer and autumn terms as you prepare to apply for university through UCAS.

Nicole Cheung

Physics Levelling Up Participant

“I was really keen to apply to Levelling Up to broaden my knowledge of Physics. Meeting the mentors and new people, and contributing and sharing ideas would be a real highlight of my experience on the scheme. For anybody thinking of applying, I would say the scheme is definitely worth applying for, it is a brilliant experience and I have benefitted greatly from it. I hope to become a chartered mathematician of chartered engineer in the future, and I know the scheme will help in reaching those goals.”


We offer the Levelling Up tutorials in the following subjects:



Topics covered in this subject are:

  • Algebra 
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Differentiation
  • Integration
  • Logs and Exponentials
  • University Admissions Tests
  • Summer Project: Remainders of Security
  • Cryptography 
  • Proof 
  • Trigonometry 
  • Vectors
  • Sequences and Series
  • Binomials
  • Differential Equations
  • Parametric Equations and Curves


The topics covered in this subject are:

  • Structure of Solids
  • Balancing Equations
  • Naming Compounds
  • Nucleophilic Substitution
  • Electron Configuration
  • Quantum Numbers
  • Hybridisation and Bonding
  • Spectroscopy
  • Kinetics
  • Aromatic Substitution


The topics covered in this subject are:

  • Physics problem solving strategies
  • Precision and accuracy in physics
  • Electric circuits and Kirchoff's Laws
  • Dynamics and Projectile Motion
  • Energy in Atoms and Spectroscopy
  • The Photoelectric Effect
  • Waves Phenomena and Slit Interference
  • Optical Phenomena
  • Particle Theory of Matter

Materials Science

Our materials science stream runs differently to the others in that you will be mentored and tutored by current materials science students but following either the chemistry, mathematics or physics stream to get you best prepared for you A-Levels
You may choose one of these subjects to apply for – it should be the subject you are most likely to apply to study at university.

Key Benefits for the Participants

  • This programme will give you support to achieve the grades you need to study maths, physics, chemistry or materials science courses at university.
  • You will meet university students at the University of Birmingham to get a taste of what to expect from studying at degree level.
  • You will receive help and advice to support your UCAS application for maths, physics, chemistry or materials science.

Who is eligible?

To apply to participate in 'Levelling Up’ you must be:

  •  In Year 12 (the first year of your A-level studies or equivalent)
  • Studying Physics or Maths or Chemistry A-level (or equivalent)
  • Interested in pursuing physics, maths, chemistry or materials science at degree level.

However, as places are limited, we may prioritise applicants meeting one or more of the following (please note, this list is in no particular order): 

  • You have been in local authority care or under a care order for at least three months prior to starting year 12. The three months do not need to be consecutive
  • You are irreconcilably estranged from both parents/carers
  • You will be in the first generation in your family to attend university
  • You 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
  • You identify as female
  • You are a black, Asian or minority Ethnic student
  • You live in an area with low progression to higher education, defined by your home postcode being classified as POLAR4 Quintile 1
  • You attend a school or college 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 'Find and compare schools in England'

Levelling Up privacy notice

The University of Birmingham works with schools and colleges to deliver outreach activities to learners who are under-represented in higher education and have the potential to progress. This work is known as widening participation.

We aim to help young people to:

  • do their best at school or college by providing outreach activities to support improvements in attainment, study skills, motivation and confidence
  • learn more about higher education, apprenticeships and other career pathways to decide on the right path for them

We do this by delivering a range of outreach activities such as University taster days, summer schools, masterclasses, study support and mentoring.

This privacy notice relates to the Levelling Up programme and provides information about how the University and the partners in this programme use the personal data we collect and process about you. It supplements our webpage Data Protection – How the University Uses Your Data.

It is important that the personal information we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep your personal information updated during your relationship with us.

What personal data will be processed?

When you apply for the levelling up project

We will process the personal data you or your school provides to us when either you or your school/college make an application for your participation in the Levelling Up project. This data will include some or all of the following: 

  • your name, home address and other contact details you may provide
  • your email, your user name, your computer’s IP address, MAC address and device name
  • your date of birth and year group
  • your gender
  • your learner ID number (UPN/ULN)
  • the name of your school/college and in some cases, your previous school/college (e.g. if you took your GCSEs there)
  • your qualifications/grades
  • whether you are entitled to free school meals
  • whether you are in care or are a care leaver
  • whether you are a young carer
  • information about your home life such as whether your parents/carers have been to university and your household income). We will assume that you have obtained consent from those individuals before you supply their contact details to us.

If your school or college provides this information to us, we will assume that they have your consent to do so.

In addition to this, we may need to process some data about you that is classed as ‘special category’ or sensitive personal data. This includes data about your ethnicity and health/disability data. Ethnicity data is important, as it enables us to carry out our statutory obligations/conditions of funding as we need to ensure our outreach activities are targeted at learners who are under-represented in higher education. We may also request data about your health or any disability you have which will be used to provide help or reasonable adjustments at events. Access to, and the sharing of, your special category personal data are controlled very carefully. Special category data is also used for research and statistical purposes, but not in a way which will involve making any decisions about you personally or putting measures in place which relate to you personally.

Personal data will also be collected by the University and the evaluation team at Durham University for the evaluation of the Levelling Up programme. This may include data from the application form, programme, surveys, registers of programme engagement, attainment and attendance. The evaluation research will also collect data through focus groups and observation of training, tutoring and mentoring sessions. Personal data collected will include your name; date of birth; address; postcode (and contextual data including POLAR quintile data and ACORN category data that is obtained using your postcode); email address; the gender you identify as; whether you have British nationality; details of your current and previous schooling, academic attainment at GCSE (or equivalent) and subjects that you are currently studying; identifying information related to university applications such as UCAS personal ID number; and whether anyone in your close family has previously attended university. We will also seek your perceptions relating to applying to university; your perceptions and experiences of STEM education in school (specifically Chemistry, Maths and Physics); data from your participation in the project; and your views on the Levelling Up programme.

Special category data will be collected through the same means and will include your ethnic group; whether you consider yourself to have a disability or a long-term health condition; whether you are in receipt of free School meals or school support; whether you have ever been looked after, accommodated or in care; or whether you are irreconcilably estranged from both of your biological or adoptive parents, or only living parent.

Audio data will be collected by the evaluation research in focus groups.

Data collected from participants  will be combined into a database for analysis with data from the other participants across the national Levelling Up project as well as from their individual programme.

As part of the evaluation, once data has been collected from different sources it will be combined into a central database where the data will be pseudonymised, with each participant being allocated a project ID linked via a key in a separate spreadsheet. The names of participants will be removed from the master database, with participants identifiable via their project ID in the database.

Engagement data and tracking outcomes

If you are accepted on to the levelling up project, the University of Birmingham will monitor your engagement within the activities for the duration of the activity and evaluate the impact these activities have had in terms of your attainment, aspirations and where you go after school/college.

  • we will collect the outreach engagement data using registers within events
  • from time to time you may be asked to complete evaluation forms, so that you can provide feedback on outreach activities

Obtaining information about you from third parties

At key points in your educational career we may ask your school/college to provide us with information about you, such as your exam results and what qualifications you are studying and where, and education data from your Individual Learner Record (ILR) which is held by your college. We may also ask the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), University Central Admissions Service (UCAS), the Student Loans Company (SLC), and the National Pupil Database (NPD) to provide us with the following information from your ILR:

  • your attainment at school/college
  • if you have/are receiving free school meals
  • if you have a disability and your ethnic group
  • the type/level of course you are studying
  • whether you went to university

We may also monitor and track your outcomes from this information if you have not engaged in outreach activities. This will allow us to compare your outcomes against outcomes of other learners that have engaged in outreach activities to support planning and help evidence which outreach activities are most effective. We may ask HESA, UCAS, SLC and NPD and/or your school/college to provide data on your background characteristics (e.g. from the school census), attainment and post-16 progression data (e.g. did you stay on in sixth form/go to college/go to university).

What is the purpose of the processing?

We will process your personal data in order to deliver our outreach and widening participation activities and agenda which includes:

  • considering the suitability of your application for the levelling up project or other outreach events/programmes to which you or your school/college has applied
  • enabling you to take part in the levelling up project or any other outreach events and activities, including putting in place any support which is appropriate and managing those events and activities
  • monitoring your subsequent engagement with those activities
  • communicating effectively with you or your school/college by post, email, phone or other electronic media, including the communication of our decision on your application to take part in an outreach activity/programme
  • accessing national data sets and identify if you progressed to higher education
  • responding to any queries about your participation within the levelling up project or other outreach activities
  • fulfilling our analysis and reporting obligations (e.g. monitoring your engagement in outreach activities to see if they have made a positive difference to your attainment and post 16 progression)
  • to enable us to contact others in the event of an emergency (we will assume that you have checked with the individuals before you supply their contact details to us)

When you apply for the levelling up project, we:

  • check if you are eligible to attend
  • track your engagement within activities
  • track your outcomes via local and national data sets
  • evaluate the impact of your engagement within outreach activities

When we have collected data about you from third parties (see Obtaining Information About your from Third Parties), that data will be matched together with data we hold to enable us to establish the impact of our activities/programmes and report to our funders/make statutory returns (e.g. the Office for Students). This data is not used to make decisions about you, including whether you can participate in further activities.

We will use your data to prepare aggregated and anonymised evaluation reports to enable us to carry out future statistical analysis on the impact of outreach activities/programmes on learners from different socio-economic backgrounds or for historical or research purposes or to meet such reporting obligations as may be imposed on the University by relevant authorities, for example the Office for Students.

The evaluation team will use the data collected from the application form, surveys, focus groups, observation of sessions, registers of programme engagement, attainment  and attendance to conduct an evaluation of the impact of the programme for participants and to understand the successes and challenges within the process of implementing the Levelling Up programme. The evaluation will particularly look at whether the programme has been received differently for different groups of participants. Audio recordings and transcripts will be used to assist the analysis of focus groups.

As part of the evaluation, we are aiming to conduct a long-term evaluation of the impact of the Levelling Up programme, therefore, all research data and records needed to validate the research findings will be stored for 10 years after the end of data collection. Data about participants within the HEAT Database may also be included as part of an evaluation of the longer-term impact of the Levelling Up programme.

Video conferencing applications

When using video conferencing applications, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, personal data such as your IP address and device name may collected by the companies who own these applications in order to schedule and create a record of meetings, improve and tailor your experience when using these applications. Where video conferencing applications are used to record meetings, personal data captured within the recording are stored within the cloud service owned by that company. Where recording is taking place, you will be notified at the beginning of or as you enter the recording session.

Data held and used by the University are compliant with GDPR. Personal data stored by a service provider within the cloud may be stored outside of the European Economic Area.

What is the legal basis of the processing?

Processing of your personal data is carried because it is necessary:

  • to perform our outreach activities and programmes, which are tasks we carry out in the public interest
  • to deliver the outreach programme you have applied for in accordance with our contractual obligations
  • to comply with a legal obligation (e.g. equal opportunities monitoring) or regulatory obligation (e.g. reporting to Government or governmental bodies)

We will only process special category data with your explicit consent or if it is necessary:

  • for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes
  • to perform our outreach activities in the substantial public interest where the law allows us to do so and in line with our Data Protection Policy
  • very occasionally, when it is needed to protect your vital interests and you are not capable of giving their consent (for example, in an emergency)
  • for the establishment, exercise or defence of any legal claims

If your consent (or that of your parent/carer) is required for any specific use of your personal data, we will collect it at the appropriate time, explaining why we are collecting the data and how we will use it, and you can withdraw this at any time. Sometimes your school/college will collect this before forwarding information about you to us.

Who will your personal data be shared with?

Within the University, your data is shared with only those University staff who need access to it to deliver and support our outreach programmes and activities.

Your personal data is shared with a range of external organisations as is necessary for the purposes set out above and as permitted or required by law, including the following:

  • The Aim higher Partnership, your school/college, The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), University Central Admissions Service (UCAS), The Student Loans Company (SLC), National Pupil Database (NPD), Individual Learner Record (ILR) as explained above (see ‘What personal data will be processed’). This will include sharing special category data you provided as part of your application and subsequent engagement within outreach activities (e.g. your ethnicity and any details of the disability)
  • relevant higher education statutory regulatory bodies (e.g. the Office for Students)
  • third parties commissioned to deliver outreach activities or conduct evaluation or research on behalf of the Government, and Government or non-governmental agencies in the public interest
  • occasionally and when necessary internal and external auditors or regulators
  • individuals, companies or organisations commissioned by or on behalf of the Government, Government or non-governmental agencies (e.g. the Office for Students) to provide or evaluate outreach activities/programmes
  • the evaluation research team in the School of Education at Durham University and the Institute of Physics Levelling Up Hub programme team. Identifiable data may also be shared with services and software approved by Durham University (e.g. transcription services and online survey software). 

Other universities running the Levelling Up programme

The Levelling Up programme is running at multiple universities across the UK. If your home postcode is in a location which is closer to one of the other universities running your preferred subject programme, we will contact you to ask you if you would like to transfer your application across to that university. If you confirm that you would like to transfer your application, we will then securely send the information you provided in your application form (including teacher verification) across to the other university for consideration for their programme.

Your personal data is shared as is necessary, on a considered and confidential basis, with several external organisations which assist us with delivering our programmes and activities or who are commissioned to deliver outreach activities or conduct evaluation or research on our behalf. These organisations act on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and do not process your data for any purpose over and above what we have asked them to do. We make sure we have appropriate contracts in place with them. Sometimes your personal data is processed by these organisations outside the European Economic Area (for example, because they use a cloud-based system with servers based outside the EEA), and if so, we make sure that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure the confidentiality and security of your personal data. 

We will not normally publish or disclose any personal data about you to other external enquirers or organisations unless you have asked us to do so or have consented to it, or unless it is in your vital interests to do so (e.g. in an emergency situation).

How long is your data kept?

We will retain the personal data collected from you and your school/college during the application process, your subsequent engagement within outreach activities and data we collect to evaluate the impact of our outreach programmes until you reach the age of 25 or for 7 years, whichever comes latest.

Evaluation research: The evaluation team at Durham University will hold identifiable data for up to ten years after the end of your time on the programme, after which time it will be anonymised and may be stored for continued research in anonymised form.

Your rights in relation to your data

Details about your rights are set out on the Data Protection – How the University Uses Your Data webpage. This also explains how to ask any questions you may have about how your personal data is used, exercise any of your rights or complain about the way your data is being handled.

Withdrawal of data from the evaluation of the programme

You can request withdrawal of your data at any time up until you have completed your time on the Levelling Up programme, at which time the data will be analysed and published. Once the research has been published, is it necessary to retain all the data on which the publication was based in order to be able to validate the research and so it would not be possible to remove your data from then onwards.

Are changes made to this webpage?

This privacy notice is effective from and was last updated May 2021. It is reviewed when necessary and at least annually. Any changes will be published here and you will be notified by email or as appropriate.


This project has been made possible by a generous donation from Dr Tony Hill, a former teacher who went on to pursue a career in the software industry, along with match funding from the University of Birmingham. In retirement, Tony devotes much of his time to philanthropic projects linked to science and widening participation in higher education.

For more information, please contact Avery Cunningham the Levelling Up Outreach offer at levellingup@contacts.bham.ac.uk