The sector invested a total of £743 million in widening participation activity in 2012-13, an increase of £61 million from 2011-12 [Note 2].
Just under half of this investment was HEFCE funding to support widening access, students with disabilities, and improving retention and student success. The remainder came from fee income and other funding sources [Note 3].
The report shows that universities and colleges:
- Increased their investment in outreach work, and in work to support progression into employment and postgraduate education.
- Delivered National Scholarship Programme awards over and above the minimum number required.
- Reported an increasingly evidence-based approach to investment/activity decisions.
- Worked collaboratively, particularly in outreach and evaluation activity [Note 4].
- Aligned their work on equality and diversity more closely with their work on access and student success.
HEFCE’s student opportunity allocation has a clear focus on supporting students to succeed in higher education and beyond. HEFCE research reports published in 2013 and 2014 [Note 5] demonstrate continuing disparities between different student groups in both degree attainment and progression to postgraduate study or graduate employment. We need to better understand the reasons for these differences, and the ways they can be addressed, to ensure that our student opportunity funding, and investment by universities and colleges, delivers maximum impact for students. This will be a key priority for HEFCE in the coming year.
HEFCE will publish important new data on trends in non-continuation in higher education at the end of this month.
Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:
‘Universities and colleges are undertaking vitally important work to maximise student success. This report shows their priorities and patterns of activity in the new funding environment.
‘It also highlights the pivotal role of HEFCE’s student opportunity allocation. Our funding accounts for half of the sector’s expenditure on widening participation activity, and institutions have emphasised its crucial importance to their work. It sustains the infrastructure necessary to deliver a range of activity, from access and student success to progression into further study or a career.
‘HEFCE will continue to work with the sector to understand better how to support all students to achieve successful outcomes, and to see even greater impact over the coming years.’
- ‘Outcomes of access agreement, widening participation strategic statement and National Scholarship Programme monitoring for 2012-13’ (HEFCE 2014/15) is available on the HEFCE web-site under Publications & reports. Each year the HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) require universities and colleges to report on their progress against widening participation strategic statements and access agreements. HEFCE also requires institutions to provide an end of year report on the National Scholarship Programme.
- Overall sector investment in widening participation activity (not including student financial support) increased in 2012-13 to £743 million, up from £682 million in 2011-12 and £691 million in 2010-11.
- HEFCE funding to support widening participation amounted to £365 million in 2012-13: £127 million for widening access, £13 million for students with disabilities, and £225 million for improving retention and student success.
- During 2014-15 and 2015-16, HEFCE will provide £22 million to support collaboration through national networks for collaborative outreach (NNCO). These networks will enable universities and colleges to work together to establish a single accessible source of information on outreach activities for all state-funded secondary schools and colleges, and indeed employers and others in their locality that have an interest.
- ‘Higher education and beyond: Outcomes from full-time first degree study’ report (HEFCE 2013/15) and ‘Differences in degree outcomes: Key findings’ (HEFCE 2014/03).