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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

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HEFCE-funded higher education institutions may submit proposals before noon on Friday 7 July 2017.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Institute of Coding competition: Invitation to submit applications for funding to enhance higher-level digital skills provision

1. This letter invites proposals for £20 million in funding to establish an institute to serve as a national focus for improving digital skills provision at Levels 6 and 7. Funding will support one collaborative project with industry that improves graduate employability and employment outcomes, and addresses identified skills needs.

2. This funding is available to HEFCE-funded higher education institutions with existing course provision in computer science or information technology. Bids will require one HEFCE-funded institution as the lead and should include an industrial partner or consortium. Other partners may include other higher education providers of all kinds, other employers, professional bodies or other stakeholders.

3. We will allocate up to £20 million of programme funding to one successful bid, to be spent between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2019.

4. The deadline for proposals is noon on Friday 7 July 2017. We recognise that this is a challenging timescale, and therefore encourage institutions to contact colleagues in the HEFCE skills team, tel 0117 931 7020, email, to discuss ideas ahead of submission. Proposals should be submitted to the templates found in Annexes B and C, available to download below. Proposals should also include a risk register and letters of support.

5. In addition, we will hold an open meeting to provide a briefing on the competition and address queries from potential applicants on 24 April 2017 at Congress Centre, London.  If you wish to nominate an attendee for this meeting, please email with the subject line as ‘IoC Town Meeting’ no later than 14 April 2017.

Purpose of this funding

6. On 17 November 2015, the Government announced funding of £20 million to launch a competition to attract joint collaborations between universities and businesses, focused on digital skills and computer science. The purpose is to lead on creating and implementing solutions that develop and grow digital skills to meet the current and future needs of the industry.

7. A range of recent reports, such as ‘Digital skills for the UK economy’, ‘Forging futures: Building higher-level skills through university and employer collaboration’ and the ‘Shadbolt review of computer sciences degree accreditation and graduate employability’, have highlighted a shortage of digital skills to meet the nation’s needs, but also relatively high levels of unemployment for computer science graduates during the early period after graduation.

8. Key recommendations of these reports have focused on the need to:

  1. Increase work experience opportunities so that graduates can learn to apply subject-specific skills to current industry challenges.
  2. Support the development of broader employability skills and transition into work.
  3. Secure better evidence and advice on immediate digital skills needs and conduct horizon-scanning for medium and longer-term needs.
  4. Engage employers actively in curriculum design to ensure its alignment with industry.
  5. Encourage more women into the digital sector and address the particular challenges experienced by students from ethnic minority groups and mature students.
  6. Prepare graduates for the particular characteristics of work in a fast-paced sector with high proportions of start-up companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.

9. To receive this funding, proposals should state how they intend to address the following key objectives:

  1. To increase the quality and support the growth of digital skills provision in England at Levels 6 and 7.
  2. To create and promote innovative learning and teaching models.
  3. To make a tangible, lasting and measurable impact on digital skills provision at national level.

10. Proposals should seek to establish an institute that can act as a focal point for higher education, digital and other relevant sectors, and as a lead body for developing and implementing solutions to ensure digital skills growth at Levels 6 and 7. The programme of activities to be undertaken by the proposed institute should align explicitly with the recommendations arising from the reports highlighted above.

11. Our expectation is that activities supported through the proposed institute will address these requirements. Proposals will need to provide evidence of the activities to be undertaken to achieve this, and explain how they intend to respond to current and future demand identified by employers, and why they will address that demand. 

Funding and eligibility

12. We will provide funding on the following basis: 

  1. A total of £20 million in HEFCE funding is available from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019. Bids may request up to £20 million in funding. We will allocate £10 million in the financial year 2017-18, and an additional £10 million in the financial year 2018-19. We recognise that this is a challenging timescale, and may be able to provide some flexibility in the spending profile, subject to agreement with the Department for Education.
  2. We will accept bids requesting a proportion of the funding as capital to establish a tangible institute, subject to a strong rationale being provided.
  3. Funding will be allocated on the basis that the participating higher education providers have secured matched funding from other sources. This means that for every £1 from the Institute of Coding funds, there should be a matched £1 invested. We expect co-investors to share the risk in the success of the new proposed institute. We will give priority to those applications that demonstrate this through cash investment and we provide advice in the bidding documentation on the calculation of investment in kind. Loans from private sources and funding from other government sources will not qualify as co-investment.
  4. Institutions may not act as a lead on more than one bid.
  5. We will not support activity that would take place irrespective of this call, and will seek evidence through the bidding process that the proposed activity is additional to that which would otherwise be undertaken. 

Assessment criteria

13.  Applications will be assessed through judgement against the following criteria:

  1. The extent to which the activities of the proposed institute will address evidenced skills needs, including through horizon-scanning in the medium and longer term.
  2. The extent to which the proposed activities will develop and secure the take-up of innovative learning and teaching models. 
  3. The extent to which the proposed activities will improve the quality and support the growth of digital skills provision at Levels 6 and 7. 
  4. The extent to which the proposed activities will enhance graduate employability and graduate employment outcomes.
  5. The extent to which proposed activities align with recommendations in the recent digital skills reports, as set out in paragraph 8.
  6. The extent to which industry and other employer partners are integrated into the activities.
  7. The extent of the impact to be achieved by the proposed institute as a national focal point in the field, leading and influencing practice and engaging the wider public.
  8. The extent to which the proposal builds on existing expertise and capacity to ensure innovative and creative solutions to addressing digital skills needs.
  9. The extent to which there is risk-sharing with industry and other partners, including through cash investment.
  10. The extent to which the institute and any related programme of activities will be sustainable beyond the period of HEFCE funding. 

Application process, selection and timescale

14. Institutions are invited to submit proposals for funding using the guidance in Annex A.

15. Following submission, bids will be assessed initially by HEFCE staff and members of the advisory group established by the Department for Education to develop the Institute of Coding proposition, and ultimately by an external assessment panel, comprising stakeholders from industry, professional bodies and higher education providers, with an observer from the Department for Education.  The external assessment panel will recommend a single successful bid for funding alongside a shortlist of reserves. Panel recommendations will be considered by the HEFCE chief executive, who will finalise the outcome in September.

16. Bidding institutions will be notified immediately of the outcome and the successful institution or institutions may commence expenditure from October, subject to provision of an expenditure profile across the two years and the agreement of success criteria.

17. The current timetable is set out below:



24 April 2017

Town meeting for briefing and queries

7 July 2017 (noon)

Deadline for submission of proposals

July  to August 2017

HEFCE assessment of proposals

September 2017

External assessment panel meeting

September 2017

Panel recommendations considered by HEFCE chief executive

September 2017

Applicants informed of decision

October 2017

Spending may begin

Monitoring and evaluation

18. We will seek to agree success criteria for the project, with interim milestones to be reported on within the HEFCE-funded period. HEFCE will engage with the lead institution to monitor progress against these criteria and on expenditure, including any capital spending and development.

19. Projects may be audited by HEFCE or an organisation commissioned by HEFCE at any stage. HEFCE may also seek information on an ad hoc basis to inform updates to the Department for Education and HM Treasury. The successful bidder may be asked to submit a final evaluative report at the end of the project or to participate in a HEFCE-commissioned evaluation.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

20. HEFCE is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gives a public right of access to information held by a public authority. This may result in applications, communications between HEFCE and the institution, information arising from this work, or the outputs from the work undertaken being subject to disclosure, if a valid request is made to us. We will comply with such requests in accordance with the legislation and our own policies.

21. Bidding institutions can, if they wish, provide potentially sensitive information (such as information relating to commercial interests) in a separate annex attached to the business case. This will highlight to us that there are concerns about disclosure.

22. Where we consider it to be appropriate and practicable we will seek the views of applicants before disclosing this information in response to a Freedom of Information request. Applicants should be aware that even when concerns have been expressed, HEFCE may nevertheless be obliged to disclose this information. Our assumption will be that all information in the main application documents can be disclosed on request. Further information about the Freedom of Information Act is available at

Complying with state aid and other relevant legislation

23. Institutions should take into account the need for allocations to be compatible with all existing legislation. Funding will not be allocated unless sufficiently clear evidence of compliance with state aid rules is provided. Applicants are advised to familiarise themselves with state aid regulations, which can be viewed online at

Further information

24. If you have any queries about this competition, contact the HEFCE project manager, Melanie Redwood, tel 0117 931 7020, or email

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Frequently asked questions

Date: 27 March 2017

Ref: Circular letter 08/2017

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Vocational and technical education; Work placements and employability; Employer partnerships; Computer science

Enquiries should be directed to:

Melanie Redwood, tel 0117 931 7020, email