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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter clarifies our expectations of widening participation strategic assessments (WPSAs) and highlights good practice, tools and resources which we hope will help institutions enhance and improve their plans for evaluation.

2.   In our initial request for WPSAs in January 2009 ('Request for widening participation strategic assessments', HEFCE 2009/01), we asked institutions to evaluate their widening participation (WP) commitments and to identify the measures they would use to assess the effectiveness and impact of their WP activities. Evaluation is essential in enabling institutions to allocate their resources effectively and we recognise that many institutions have been evaluating their WP activities on an ongoing basis. However, our assessment of the WPSAs highlighted that this was an area that many institutions would need to develop further.

3.   Consequently, in December 2009 ('Widening participation strategic assessments: annual reporting requirements and developing approaches to evaluation', HEFCE EP 10/2009) we asked institutions to develop their approaches to evaluation. We also indicated that we would expect revised WPSAs to be submitted to us in 2012 to demonstrate how evidence from evaluation had been used to inform and enhance the institution's WP policy and activity.

4.   Attached to this letter are:

  • Annex A Guidance for institutions – including guidance on evaluation, monitoring, targeting and describing outcomes
  • Annex B Extract from University of Leeds, 'Changing Futures: Widening Participation Outreach Strategy'– an example of good practice in estimating the impact of an institution's WP work.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive

Date: 14 October 2010

Ref: Circular letter 24/2010

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

Enquiries should be directed to:

Siân Griffiths, tel 0117 931 7153, e-mail