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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter provides details of a grant programme to research, develop and evaluate institutional practice relating to links between higher education institutions (HEIs), schools, colleges and academies. Applications are to be made by Friday 27 February 2009.

2.   In October 2008 the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families jointly published 'National Council for Educational Excellence: recommendations'1. The document places further emphasis on the need for the higher education (HE) sector to work with schools and academies. School-HE links, including links with colleges, are widely regarded as critical to the success of national strategies designed to raise the attainment of learners, widen participation and promote learner progression to the full range of HE available.

3.   We recognise that the development of sustainable school-HE relationships can be a complex process. We wish to offer grants to selected institutions to undertake research that will provide evidence of effective practice in models of school-HE links. Once identified and fully researched, we will provide opportunities for these models to be discussed by the HE sector so that individual institutions can select and then apply those aspects that are most appropriate to their needs and strategic priorities.

4.   Effective models of school-HE links are likely to be characterised by three principal elements:

  • shared governance and strategic planning arrangements with school-HE links featuring both in school improvement and HEI corporate plans
  • co-operation on curriculum development with schools and HE providers identifying areas where joint working and exchanges could provide advantage(s) for both
  • support for learners including enhanced arrangements for information, advice and guidance, particularly at key transition points in the 13-19 age phase, so that the full range of HE destinations are considered by learners.

5.   During 2009 up to 10 projects will each receive between £40,000 and £60,000 to research, develop and evaluate the nature, scope and cost effectiveness of sustainable models of school-HE relationships.

6.   Following the completion of the research, we will subsequently provide funding for three of the 10 projects to develop practice further over two years. Each project will receive an additional £60,000 to £80,000.

7.   Please note that this invitation for proposals is for the first phase of the research only. We expect to receive proposals by Friday 27 February 2009 and the projects to begin by 1 April 2009. We expect to receive the reports by 28 August 2009.

8.   Proposals will be assessed by an advisory panel drawn from HEFCE institutional and policy teams as well as other representatives with a school/college background.

9.   Further details about this grant and how it can be accessed by HEIs are contained in Annexes A and B of this circular.

Yours sincerely

John Selby
Director, Education and Participation


'National Council for Educational Excellence: recommendations' (DCSF-00803-2008) is available from the DCSF web-site.

Frequently asked questions about the programme.

Date: 8 January 2009

Ref: Circular letter 01/2009

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Enquiries should be directed to:

Claire Lester, tel 0117 931 7054, e-mail