1. The purpose of this report is to provide information about compact schemes, raise awareness of them across the sector, show how they contribute to outreach and recruitment activities, and set out some key principles for their use and further development. We discuss the types of compact scheme and their purposes; the eligibility and involvement of schools, colleges and learners; the coverage of schemes and the benefits and outcomes for learners involved in them. The report will provide a source of ideas and information to support institutions as they plan their own compact schemes.
2. We commissioned ACL Consulting to undertake research on compacts. The full report is available as Annex B to this report and the case studies as Annex A; both are available on the HEFCE web-site, www.hefce.ac.uk, under Publications as separate downloads alongside this report.
3. Common themes and key principles emerging from the research that can help to make compacts successful include:
- clarity about target groups and purpose
- strong relationships between HEIs, schools and colleges
- staff in HEIs, schools and colleges, and compact participants understand that compact offers (standard or modified) are based on evidence about individuals' potential
- good data collection and analysis about applications, entry and student success.
4. Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of compact scheme:
- Outreach-type schemes that focus more on raising aspirations and attainment and providing advice and guidance than they do on admissions. Although all must have some link with admissions to be counted as compacts, the emphasis is on aspirations and attainment.
- Schemes that rely mainly on the 'standard offer' and form part of the wider marketing, recruitment and widening participation strategy of higher education (HE) providers.
- Schemes that link achievement, or evidence of potential, in some form of additional learning to variable offers.
5. There are known to be 51 institutions offering some form of compact, although many reject the use of this term. Most are offered by single institutions but some are collaborative schemes. They engage up to 60,000 learners in around 1,700 schools and colleges and help at least 8,000 people enter HE every year.
6. The benefits of compacts to learners are significant. They provide additional support for learners prior to entry: learners are better prepared, make more effective applications and have a familiarity with HE that stands them in good stead on entry. There is little available data, but it appears that learners, on the whole, perform as well or better than other students.
7. Compact arrangements are diverse and this is a strength. It reflects the market position and mission of institutions, and the relationships they have negotiated with partner schools and colleges. There is no reason to expect them to conform to a single model, nor any good reason why they should.
8. The research has identified weaknesses with targeting, data collection, data analysis and clear, publicly available information about compacts. There are four key recommendations:
- HE providers should be clear about the target groups and the purposes of a compact. Many schemes will have broad recruitment purposes as well as specific widening participation aims; sometimes these will be regarded as synonymous. Where widening participation is an aim the scheme should take account of the guidance on targeting recently issued by HEFCE and prioritise the involvement of those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- HE providers should collect better data on compact participants. Appropriate data protection permissions should be obtained to use and share data for the purposes of research and evaluation.
- HE providers should monitor the performance of compact participants after entry to HE, provide support for learners to enable their success on the programme and success in terms of progression or employment on leaving HE.
- HE providers should provide a clear summary of the main features of the 'compact' including conditions of eligibility and the main benefits of the scheme, including information on the offer that the 'compact' makes. Where existing arrangements are not regarded as a compact the relevant information should be made available in an appropriate way.
9. We hope that the reporting of this research, the identification of key principles and practices involved in a range of compact schemes together with the more detailed case studies, will provide a basis for institutions to review and develop compact arrangements or, in some cases, consider how new schemes could be introduced.
10. No action is required.