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This report is the final output of one of two related projects that aim to develop an evaluation framework to better demonstrate the impact of funding to widen participation in higher education.

We commissioned this report by CFE Research, working in collaboration with economists from the University of Sussex and the University of Sheffield and Professor Liz Thomas, to develop a framework for evaluating the impact of activities and spending designed to improve student access to and success in higher education.

The report collates and assesses evidence of the impact of widening participation (WP) and explores some of the benefits and challenges in improving the evidence base. It describes the development of an evaluation framework for WP and reports the results of consultations with higher education institutions. Using insights from approaches taken in other sectors, it recommends what can be done, now and in the future, to produce stronger evidence. The report is accompanied by supplementary case studies illustrating evidence of impact and focusing on different aspects of WP.

The sister project investigated the feasibility of collecting additional data from institutions to evidence the impact of WP spending. It involved the development of a pilot data return which was tested on a sample of higher education institutions.