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Executive summary


1.   This document requests higher education institutions (HEIs), and those further education colleges directly funded by HEFCE, to submit widening participation strategic assessments. It outlines the framework for a flexible form of reporting that recognises the diversity of the higher education sector and provides guidance that sets out the expectations of HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

Key points

2.   In May 2008, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills asked HEFCE and OFFA for advice on how we could bring together institutions' widening participation and fair access policies into a single document and how this might be supported within our existing powers.

3.   We submitted our advice to the Secretary of State in September 2008 after consulting with sector colleagues.

4.   The submission of a widening participation strategic assessment will be made a condition of the continued receipt of the HEFCE widening participation allocation.

5.   Each strategic assessment should be structured so that the first section provides an overarching statement that: identifies the place of widening participation in the institution's forward planning; sets out the overall aims and objectives; includes a high-level statement on admissions; and explains how the institution intends to measure success.

6.   The second section of the strategic assessment should set out: the full range of the institution's widening participation activity at an appropriately aggregated level; the detailed targets and milestones; and the level of resource committed to widening participation including, but not limited to, the HEFCE widening participation allocation and the spending on outreach and bursaries covered by the access agreement.

7.   Institutions should append to the assessment their access agreement and published admission policy, or details of how these can be accessed. Institutions should also append or provide clear links to all other strategic documents that they believe address their commitment to widening participation.

8.   Institutions will report progress against the targets and milestones they have set. In order to bring reporting against the strategic assessments into HEFCE's 'single conversation' with HEIs, institutions will monitor progress in December each year. This will build on the existing reporting to OFFA which will also be moved to December of each year.

Action required

9.   Institutions will need to submit their first widening participation strategic assessment by Tuesday 30 June 2009. An interim progress report would be submitted in December 2009 with annual reports submitted in December of each year thereafter.

10.   To support institutions in the preparation of their widening participation strategic assessments, two conferences will be held in March 2009. The first will be in central London on 18 March 2009 and the second will be in Leeds on 25 March 2009. Invitations to these events will be sent to heads of institutions early in 2009.

Date: 1 January 2009

Ref: 2009/01

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, Widening participation, Learning, teaching and the student experience, Admissions, Finance, Access agreements

Enquiries should be directed to:

Sarah Howls, HEFCE, tel 0117 931 7073, e-mail

Jean Arnold, Office for Fair Access, tel 0117 931 7053, e-mail