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To make faster progress nationally to widen access to higher education (HE), HEFCE is funding a national collaborative outreach programme to run from academic year 2016-17. Funded at £30 million in the first year of operation and £60 million thereafter, the programme will have the express purpose of boosting young HE participation rates in the most disadvantaged areas in England.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

‘We’re seeing record application rates to our universities but too many students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds still miss out. This important outreach programme will support universities to widen access by building partnerships with local schools and help young people reach their full potential.’

Guidance has been issued to invite proposals from consortia which will come together to deliver highly focused outreach. The programme will deliver activity where HEFCE’s analysis shows that participation in HE is particularly low overall, and lower than expected given the Key Stage 4 attainment levels in those areas. Consortia will deliver a suite of outreach activity which will support and encourage young people in school years 9 to 13 to consider HE a viable choice in meeting their ambitions.

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said:

‘We are keen to support the Prime Minister’s goal and the National Collaborative Outreach Programme offers a new way of focusing outreach geographically where our analysis shows rapid progress can be made.

‘We look forward to working with higher education providers to bring together consortia to realise this programme. We know from other programmes, most recently the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach, that institutions can bring an active and imaginative approach to outreach delivered through collaboration. The new programme will enable consortia to deliver an exciting range of activity to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their talents and ambitions.’

Working with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), HEFCE will ensure that the programme complements the existing investment by institutions and Government in widening participation, which supports young learners from their early school years, and older learners, to participate successfully in HE. It follows the Government’s recent grant letter to HEFCE and guidance letter to OFFA, which called for more university-led outreach to disadvantaged areas.

Notes

  1. The link to the guidance is available at www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/Year/2016/201606/.
  2. Key Stage 4 refers to the two years of school which include GCSEs and other exams, normally known as years 10 and 11.
  3. The guidance invites consortia of universities, further education colleges, private HE providers, sixth form colleges, schools, charities, local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and other local partners to submit proposals to run programmes of collaborative outreach.
  4. Further information about our analysis of young participation and target areas is available at www.hefce.ac.uk/analysis/yp/.
  5. The programme will run from 2016-17 to 2019-20. We will provide £30 million in 2016-17 to establish the consortia and commence delivery of activity. From 2017-18, funding for the programme will be set at £60 million per year.
  6. Funding will be provided for two years in the first instance, from January 2017 to December 2018. Funding for a further two years, to December 2020, will be subject to consortia making satisfactory progress towards meeting the Government’s goals.
  7. In 2016-17, all institutions will continue to receive a widening access allocation from HEFCE, which will total £54 million. See www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2016/CL,032016.
  8. The Government’s grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, available at www.hefce.ac.uk/news/newsarchive/2016/Name,107598,en.html, asked HEFCE to target funding more effectively on government priorities, including access for those students with the educational attainment or potential to succeed, in particular geographical areas where there is evidence that entry rates are below expectations. It also asked HEFCE to establish how many institutions have established free schools and how many plan to, and to report to Ministers on this.
  9. The guidance issued to the Office for Fair Access in February, available at https://www.offa.org.uk/about/background/, also identified the need for smarter spending by universities on targeted outreach and partnerships with schools to improve access.
  10. These measures will support the Prime Minister’s ambitions to double the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020, compared with 2009, and increase the number of black and minority ethnic students going into higher education by 20 per cent by 2020. 
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