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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Below are frequently asked questions specifically about Catalyst Fund B: Barriers to student success.

1. What costs can the project include when drawing down on the £10,000 development funding?

The costs of attending the development workshop on 7-8 November can be included, along with any other meetings planned for the development of the full proposal.

Staff time for bid development can also be included as long as it is clear, transparent and accurately costed. Institutions should retain their own records according to their own systems and processes and these can be submitted to HEFCE when claiming for the funds.

HEFCE can only provide funding to the lead institution and therefore expenses for individuals will first need to be recouped from their own institution or the lead institution (depending on individual project arrangements).

2. Do our claims for the £10,000 funding need to be submitted by the 5 December also?

The award letters sent out to lead institutions in October 2016 highlighted that claims should be submitted to HEFCE by 5 December in order to guarantee payment in January 2017. If you require more time to submit your claims, this will be fine on the caveat that payment in January will not be guaranteed. The final deadline for submission of claims will be Monday 19 December.

3. Should projects refer to the general Catalyst Fund bid pack on the HEFCE website?

For this call we are directing projects to the specific Call B guidance and the specific business case template that was sent round at the workshop, rather than the generic Catalyst Fund bid pack and template. This is because the assessment process for this particular call is different to general Catalyst Fund assessment processes and it has specific criteria.

Therefore, please refer to the Call B guidance and the guidance provided in the specific business case template in order to complete your full proposal.

4. Are projects able to add new partners to the full submission that were not on the original Expression of Interest?

If you have new interested partners for the project that were not on the Expression of interest, you are able to add them for the full submission if it makes sense for the project.

If you are in the situation where you are removing partners, that will also be okay but you will need to provide a short explanation for why the original partner(s) are no longer on the project. As long as you ensure you have the minimum number of HE partners on your project to meet the criteria (2), you can amend your partnerships for the full bid.

If adding partners, please ensure that the new partner institutions are not on more than the permitted number of projects (2 maximum).

5. Should the proposal be costed with Full Economic Costing (FEC)?

We would prefer for you to cost the proposal using FEC and there should be support on how to do this within your institution (for example research offices would have expertise in this). However, as long as costs are clearly set out, it is not essential but we do have a preference for FEC costing.

6. What is the difference between match funding and leveraged funding?

Match funding reflect the institutions’ contribution to the project, as part of shared commitment and risk sharing. Leveraged funding includes contributions from partners outside of the HE sector, this could include funding from Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) or other organisations and funding bodies.

7. If Capital funding is not being requested, is it okay to remove the sections relating to this on the business case template?

Yes, it is fine to delete these sections (only Table 2 and ‘Capital investment status’) if they are not required for your submission.

8. What risk register should we be providing to support the risks identified in the business case template?

The register you should submit is the full risk register you have compiled for the project. There is no specified format for the risk register, this should be in the format that works the best for your project and the institutions involved. We do not require the corporate risk register for your institution.

9. What should be included in the environmental impact assessment?

This section refers to any environmental impacts your project may have and your review of the possible impact of these.

10. Does the 20 pages limit include all supporting materials?

The 20 page limit only applies to the business case template and key milestone section. Supporting materials like letters of support and the risk register can be submitted in addition to this. The business case template should be submitted as a Word document and the supporting materials (letters of support etc.) should be collated and submitted as one PDF.

11. How do we submit our final business case and associated documentation?

The completed business case templates and supporting documentation should be emailed to by 17.00 Monday 5 December.

12. If successful, can the project grant only be shared amongst formal named partners on the bid or can informal partners also receive some funding?

It should be clear in the bid how HEFCE funding will be used and distributed. If it is core to the success of the project that informal partners receive limited funding for crucial activities, we will review and consider accordingly.

Below are frequently asked questions about both Catalyst Fund calls: innovations in learning and teaching (call A) and barriers to student success (call B).

13. Can match funding be in kind or capital funding?

Both Calls: Our strong preference is for direct cash investment to evidence clear commitment to aims and objectives, and risk sharing. In-kind support is acceptable but bids should clearly demonstrate the value and additionality of this investment.

Owing to the objectives of the Calls and the sums of money on offer our strong preference is to provide revenue funding. Capital investment will only be considered, and only for Call B, where relevant and if a bid is of the highest quality.

14. In what circumstance might capital funding be considered appropriate for call B?

This will be considered on a case by case basis in terms of relevance to the overall aims of the project.

15. Could further education colleges (FECs) make the case for capital funding for call B or are there restrictions due to the need for the funding to be directed to higher education (HE) activities only?

As with higher education institutions, FECs could make a case for capital funding if this is absolutely essential for the success of the project. However, it will need to be clear that any such funding will be used for the benefit of HE students. Our strong preference, given the aims of the Call and the sums on offer, is to provide revenue support only.

16. What does the call mean for existing Catalyst projects in the pipeline?

We will discuss with existing bids in the pipeline which relate to learning and teaching activity or barriers to success on how they should proceed. Our starting point will be that any of these bids should proceed through the Call.

17. What does the call mean for the funding available for Catalyst non learning and teaching projects or barriers to success in the pipeline?

Projects relating to other priorities are unaffected.

18. When will we get the funding?

Funding will be allocated during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years (1 April to 31 March each year). Payment months are detailed in each annex of the circular letter and will be confirmed in award letters for successful projects.

18a. When will we have to spend the funding by?

Projects should aim to spend the funding allocated within the financial year it is paid. 

Funding for Call A needs to be spent by 31 March 2018. For Call A efforts will be made to enable funding to be carried forward from 2016-17 into 2017-18, but this cannot be guaranteed. 

Funding for Call B needs to be spent by 30 November 2018.

18b. What happens if we can’t spend the funding within the time period?

Concerns regarding underspends should be flagged to the Catalyst team as soon as possible.

18c. When does the 2 year period commence for Call B?

For Call B, year one is January to December 2017 and year two is January to December 2018. Actual dates within these months will be confirmed in award letters.

19. Is there a minimum level of funding for Call A?

No. Funding requests should be based on the needs of the project up to the maximum amount.

20. Is there a maximum amount of funding or number of projects that will be funded?

There are currently no limits on how much of the Catalyst fund budget for these financial years will be spent on the call, and therefore no set limit on how many projects will be funded. This will be reviewed as applications are received and reviewed in line with Catalyst funding already committed as well as against projects in the pipeline.

21. How should the initial £10,000 funding be spent? Are there restrictions on this funding?

The £10,000 should be used for attending the workshop and for activities to develop the ideas following the workshop.

Examples of uses of funding might include:

  • staff time for project group meetings or workshops
  • transport
  • accommodation.

We may review any investment to ensure it is used for the purposes intended.

22. If the £10,000 is not spent in full can this be put towards the costs of the project if successful?

We would expect any unspent funding from this phase to be returned to HEFCE.

23. Can the funding be used to support degree or higher apprenticeships development?

For both Calls A and B we would welcome projects that support higher levels skills, particularly in response to employer needs. However, we are unlikely to support projects solely focused on degree apprenticeships as we will be running a separate call for relating to such programmes in autumn 2016.

24. Can we receive both Degree Apprenticeship Development Funding and Catalyst funding?

Yes – Catalyst funding can be applied for if Degree Apprenticeship Development Funding has also been awarded or is being sought. However, there should be clear distinctions between each bid as we will not double fund activity. The success or otherwise of bids to different HEFCE funding streams will not guarantee success or failure through these processes.

25. Can Call B collaborative partners be from the devolved nations?

The lead institution must be HEFCE-funded but other partners do not have to be. Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project to support English HE and this is particularly true for non-domestic institutions (including those from other parts of the UK).

26. Can Call A projects be collaborative or must they be single institution?

They can be either collaborative or undertaken by a single institution.

27. For Call B how many institutions need to be involved?

There should be a minimum of three higher education (HE) providers involved in each project: one lead and two partner HE providers. Additional partners are encouraged where it is appropriate to the project.

28. Can Call B collaborative partners be non-HEFCE funded providers, or not a higher education (HE) provider if there are three HE providers in the group?

The lead institution must be HEFCE-funded and we expect the additional two partners to be HE providers but they do not necessarily need to be HEFCE-funded. Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project and this is particularly true for non-domestic institutions.

29. Can Call B collaborative partners be from international higher education institutions (HEIs)?

As long as the lead institution is HEFCE-funded, then we have no issue with international proposal partners. The bids will be assessed on merit and therefore will need to clearly demonstrate what the international partners will contribute to the project, how the collaborations will work successfully to support English higher education, and indicate how they will robustly monitor and evaluate their activity.

30. Can Call B collaborative partners be alternative providers?

The lead institution must be HEFCE-funded but other partners do not have to be. Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project to support English higher education, and this is particularly relevant for other types of institution outside of the HEFCE-funded sector.

31. Can mission groups and other sector bodies be partners on proposals for both calls?

Call A: It is for projects to determine their partners. These may include mission groups and other sector bodies. However, we advise that Jisc and HEA should not be involved in the development of business cases as they will be involved in the assessment of proposals (see Q22). Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project.

Call B: Mission groups and other sector bodies can be partners on proposals but the project lead must be a HEFCE-funded HE provider and we expect at least two other partners to also be HE providers. Mission groups and other sector bodies can therefore be additional partners on the project. Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project.

32. Can HEA and Jisc be project partners?

Call A: We expect Jisc and HEA to be involved in the assessment of proposals and therefore they should not be involved in the development of business cases, although we would support institutions working with Jisc and HEA after projects have been selected. We recognise that HEA and Jisc colleagues already work closely with institutions across the sector and in practice it may be difficult to not have their involvement. We will ensure that any conflict of interests are declared within the assessment process and appropriately managed.

Call B: Jisc and HEA may be involved in Call B as project partners on collaborative proposals as long as the lead partner is HEFCE-funded and at least two other partners are also higher education providers.

33. Do I need to submit letters of support from partners?

Call A: Letters of support are not essential but where projects involve partners, demonstration of their clear commitment would strengthen the proposal.

Call B: Letters of support are not essential for the expression of interest stage of the call but will be required for the full proposal stage of the call to demonstrate clear commitment to the project.

34. Can FECs lead on bids for both calls?

Yes, directly funded FECs can lead on bids for both calls.

35. What is the position regarding collaborative bids between FE mission groups such as the AoC, MEG group of colleges, and FECs? Will they be eligible?

Mission groups and other sector bodies can be partners on proposals but the project lead must be a HEFCE-funded HE provider and we expect at least two other partners to also be HE providers. Mission groups and other sector bodies can therefore be additional partners on the project. Proposals will need to clearly demonstrate what all partners will contribute to the project

36. Is it possible to submit Catalyst proposals relating to learning and teaching and student opportunity that do not fit within the call criteria?

We are unlikely to take forward other bids for learning and teaching and barriers to success while these calls are running. Institutions should check with their institutional team contact for advice.

37. Can Call A proposals relate to a single discipline or should the innovation have a broader reach?

Yes proposals may relate to a single discipline.

38. In Call B, what does ‘addressing barriers to student success’ mean in practice?

Addressing barriers to student success refers to the barriers faced by some groups of students in gaining successful outcomes in HE, whilst they are already in HE. For disabled students, moving to social models and inclusive practice to maximise outcomes for all students is particularly important.

Widening access or outreach to HE is supported by HEFCE through the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP). Therefore, all proposals to Call B should focus on addressing differential outcomes for students already in HE and maximising student outcomes.

39. How many projects will be supported?

We have not set a fixed number of projects at the outset of the call. The number of projects awarded will be subject to the quality of proposals received and available funding.

40. In the Call rubric what does ‘engagement from universities and FECs’ mean?

The level of engagement refers to how many institutions respond to the call.

41. What project monitoring will be involved and how will HEFCE avoid it being burdensome?

Call A

An interim project monitoring report will focus on financial accountability and risk management and therefore minimise administrative burden.

The final end of project monitoring report will also seek information on the learning and outcomes from the project. These will be proportionate to the level of funding.

As indicted in the call, projects should be willing to be involved in evaluation and dissemination activities undertaken by HEFCE. This may involve being interviewed, providing case studies or being involved in dissemination events.

Call B
Initial project funding of £10,000: The lead institution be required to provide a financial breakdown of how the £10,000 has been spent for accountability purposes.

Full-scale project funding: An annual monitoring return will be required for each year of funding to monitor financial accountability and risk management. This will be proportionate to the level of funding. In addition robust evaluation and information sharing will be a cross-cutting, centrally organised theme across all of the funded projects. It will be a condition of grant for all projects to undertake formative evaluation of their own activity, which will feed into an overall evaluation co-ordinated and commissioned by HEFCE.

42. How many bids can I submit as lead institution?

Institutions can be listed as lead institution in a maximum of three bids across the two calls:

  • Call A with project relating to undergraduate provision
  • Call A with project relating to postgraduate provision
  • Call B as lead institution 

For Call B institutions may also be a partner in an additional bid.

43. How many bids can we have involvement in?

Call A: You can lead on 2 (see question 31 above). You can partner in other Call A projects with no limits.

Call B: You can lead on 1 (see question 31 above) and be a partner in one other project. Maximum two bids per institution.

44. For call B, what level of evidence is required to demonstrate that previous approaches have been successful?

It is expected that providers will be able to provide illustrative quantitative and qualitative evidence that indicates or predicts improved outcomes for students from specific groups. The evidence provided should clearly relate to the approach or intervention the project is seeking to scale-up.

45. Call B refers specifically to mental health problems and specific learning difficulties. Can a provider bid for funding to support disabled students which don’t fall into those categories?

The aims of the call specifically refer to supporting innovations for students with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties. These have been drawn out as we know that they are particularly prevalent and we have previously published research into the provision of support for these impairments. However, when considering broader differential outcomes we know that disabled students not in receipt of Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) have worse outcomes than students without a disability and we would welcome proposals which address issues of support for disabled students more generally. This is particularly relevant given the reduction to DSA in 2016-17 and HEFCE’s aims to assist the sector in moving towards inclusive models of support.

46. What definition of 'specific learning difficulties' is being used? (Annex B, para 6, bullet 2)

'Specific learning difficulties' is a commonly used and widely accepted term that refers to conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.

47. Where on the HEFCE website can I find the qualitative study on teaching and innovation referenced in call A?
48. Where on the HEFCE website can I find the previous studies on differential outcomes and supporting disabled students?

HEFCE reports of relevance to Call B can be found below:

49. How is 'innovative' defined for the purposes of Call A?

It will be for business cases to identify why the approach in the project is innovative.

50. I haven’t received a reply to my email – is there a problem?

The Catalyst Fund inbox is checked frequently and queries passed to the relevant member of staff. Should you have any difficulties in contacting a specific member of staff please contact HEFCE customer services on 0117 931 7317.

51. How will we be informed of the outcomes?

Call A

We will inform institutions about whether they have been successful by 4 November (usually by email).

Call B

We will inform institutions about whether they have been selected to proceed to the workshop stage of the process by the end of October. We will announce the workshop dates in advance of announcing the outcomes for planning purposes.

52. My application has exceeded the page or word limit – what are the consequences?

Whilst due regard will be given to all applications in full, HEFCE reserve the right to not read text beyond the set limit.

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