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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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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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The National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) will deliver a nationally co-ordinated approach to working with schools, universities and colleges to help people access higher education [Note 1].   Local and regional providers of higher education have come together to form the networks, ensuring comprehensive coverage across England.

Thirty-five local networks will cover the whole of England. Each network will appoint a single point of contact to help teachers and advisers find out about higher education outreach activity in their area and to provide general advice about progression into higher education. Three more networks will offer advice and support to specific groups of students at national level, including older learners wishing to continue or return to study and care leavers.

The local networks will host web-sites with information about outreach activity, and signpost other information to support schools and colleges as they prepare their students for higher education.

The networks are funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and managed by HEFCE [Note 2].

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science, welcomed the networks, saying:

‘Higher education is a transformational experience and the future of the UK economy depends on having highly-trained graduates so it is vital that young people have the right information about progressing into higher education. This programme will ensure that schools and colleges across England can help their students learn about higher education in the classroom, online and through local outreach activity.

‘A record number of students entered higher education in 2014, with entry rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds increasing by over 10 per cent to its highest ever level. However there is still more work to do to ensure all students who want to study hard can benefit, irrespective of their background.’

Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

‘We have been impressed by the higher education sector’s response to this scheme, which means that vital information about how to progress into higher education will be available to people across England. We set out to establish coverage of state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges and, through the support of the sector, this will be achieved.

‘As well as providing co-ordinated coverage of outreach activity, we are keen that the NNCO scheme contributes innovative approaches to the interaction between higher education institutions and schools and colleges. We will be evaluating the scheme to ensure that innovation can be shared amongst networks and quickly benefit schools and colleges and the students they support.’

HEFCE has launched a web page which will enable schools and colleges to find their local network


  1. The NNCO scheme was first announced in a written ministerial statement in November 2013, when the former Minister for Universities and Science set out changes to the National Scholarship Programme from 2014-15 onwards. He stated that:

    ‘By bringing forward from 2015-16 the planned reduction of £100 million in funding for the NSP we are able to redirect £25 million to establish a new network to support collaborative outreach.

    ‘Universities, colleges and schools will benefit from an investment of £25 million in 2014 to help them work together more effectively as they reach out to encourage more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to university.

  2. Funding of £22 million is provided for the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The remaining £3 million from the £25 million allocated will fund the rolling-out of the Higher Education Access Tracker, a sector-owned service which enables institutions to track learners through the education system and measure the success of their interventions.
  3. The NNCO scheme funds publicly funded universities and colleges to develop local networks to coordinate outreach activities for all state-funded secondary schools and colleges in England. At present 226 universities and colleges are partners in networks.
  4. The three national networks will offer specific support to care leavers, older learners and learners aspiring to progress to Oxford and Cambridge.