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HEFCE commissioned the National Federation of Educational Research (NFER) to explore the relative probability of progression to higher education for the first cohort of young people who were in Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge schools and those who were in non-Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge comparison schools.

The study had two aims:

  • to assess the impact, if any, of Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge on progress to higher education amongst young people from 'non-traditional higher education backgrounds'
  • to identify the policy-related factors that might have contributed to such transition for those from 'non-traditional higher education backgrounds'.

The study found that at a national level, the Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge initiative appears to be associated with a positive impact on progression to higher education for some young people, particularly those from more disadvantaged groups (those receiving free school meals). These differences were not large, but were statistically significant. For instance, while young people from non-Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge schools with only average attainment had a 9.2 per cent probability of entering higher education, those from Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge schools had a 10.3 per cent probability.

The Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge programme and Partnerships for Progression became one unified programme in 2004, now known as 'Aimhigher'. This study forms part of the Council's wider evaluation of the Aimhigher programme, which includes:

  • evaluation of the impact of Aimhigher at a national level
  • evaluation of the Aimhigher Summer Schools Scheme
  • evaluation of the Aimhigher Associates Scheme
  • a study of value for money in relation to overheads.