The new arrangements will provide higher education institutions (HEIs) and further education colleges in receipt of direct HEFCE funding with an opportunity to demonstrate and take credit for the work they are doing in respect of WP, and show how it is embedded in institutional missions and policies.
The call for WP strategic assessments follows an announcement from the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, at the HEFCE Annual Conference in May 2008, in which he said that the time was right to bring together HEIs' WP and fair access policies, including a transparent admissions system, into a single document. Subsequent reports from the National Audit Office (note 2) and the National Council for Educational Excellence report (note 3) have also recommended the development of strategic WP documents for all institutions.
John Selby, HEFCE Director, Education and Participation, said:
'Previous evidence, including HEFCE's review of widening participation in 2006, has shown that substantial progress has already been made in the higher education sector in embedding widening participation in institutional practice.
'As well as being a useful developmental tool for institutions, the new widening participation strategic assessments will provide HEFCE and OFFA with further vital evidence of how widening participation has become an integral part of the policies, processes and cultures in many institutions.
'They will give greater coherence and structure to institutions' WP commitments and help them to identify gaps in their provision and support for learners.'
Sir Martin Harris, Director of Fair Access, said:
'Strategic assessments coupled with access agreements will provide a more complete picture of institutions' widening participation activities and commitments. This will be of strategic benefit to institutions, as well as providing public reassurance of the extent of institutions' commitment to widening participation.'
The strategic assessments will run for three years and institutions will submit the first strategic assessment in June 2009.
The reporting framework will be relatively open to enable institutions to identify their commitments to WP in ways that reflect their institutional strengths and to set their own targets against which to measure their achievement. Institutions will monitor progress against their strategic assessments in December each year as part of their normal reporting cycle, in order to minimise any bureaucratic burden.
1. 'Request for widening participation strategic assessments' (HEFCE 2009/01) formally requests the submission of the strategic assessments and outlines the reporting framework.
2. 'Widening Participation in higher education', (June 2008) is available from The National Audit Office.
3. The National Council for Educational Excellence recommendations are listed on the web-site for the Department for Children, Families and Schools.