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Higher Education Funding Council for England | Office for Fair Access

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Strategies for access and student success 2014-15 to 2018-19

1. We are writing to advise that in January 2014 HEFCE and OFFA will jointly request from your institution a Strategy for Access and Student Success (SASS). This letter provides advance notice of the new arrangements. The SASS replaces Access Agreements and Widening Participation Strategic Statements.

2. All HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education colleges, including those that have recently become HEFCE-funded, must submit a SASS to OFFA and/or HEFCE covering the years 2014‑15 to 2018-19 as a condition of the continued receipt of the HEFCE Student Opportunity allocation. We plan to invite all institutions to conduct an interim review of their SASS in spring 2017.

3. For those wishing to charge above the basic fee for a fee-regulated course in the academic year 2015-16, your SASS will incorporate the statutory information and widening participation commitments you need to provide to OFFA and so will be subject to the approval of the Director of Fair Access. You will need to update and submit these commitments to OFFA for approval on an annual basis each spring. You may also choose to update your strategy, where necessary, as part of this annual cycle.

4. Full guidance for this process will be published on Thursday 23 January 2014. The deadline for submissions will be Monday 14 April 2014.


5. The National Strategy for Access and Student Success was submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in October 2013. The strategy outlines proposed national policy aims for access and student success, and sets out those strategic actions needed to improve widening participation outcomes across the student lifecycle. This covers activities and strategies around access; student retention and success; and progression to employment or further study.

6. Although at the time of writing the national strategy for access and student success is unpublished and the decision about publication will rest with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills our two organisations have been asked by the Government to better integrate our processes. The evidence that lies behind the recommendations in the strategy is substantial and it forms the basis for our approaches to matters of access and student success, along with steers we receive from government. A key action has been to develop the SASS process as a single, coherent document within which publicly funded higher education providers can articulate their strategies and targets across all aspects of the student lifecycle.

7. Within your SASS, we will expect you to show how you are:

  • taking an evidence-based approach to addressing those priorities set out in your SASS and aligning strategies across your institution
  • contributing to national as well as local priorities – for example, growing the overall applicant pool by ensuring good geographical coverage of long-term, co-ordinated outreach and contributing to the evidence base
  • considering fully the whole student lifecycle.

8. In integrating HEFCE’s and OFFA’s requirements our aim is to facilitate the development of long-term, strategic, whole-institution approaches to widening participation, while avoiding duplication and reducing unnecessary burden on the sector.

Institutional planning

9. The full guidance we will publish on Thursday 23 January 2014 will set out our expectations of your institution and the sector as a whole.

10. We are providing advance notice to help you to plan appropriately and ensure that there is sufficient opportunity to engage and consult with students on your plans and to give you time to plan for any internal approval process at your institution.

11. Further information can be found at and

Expected timetable

23 January 2014

Guidance published

January to April

OFFA and HEFCE available for discussions

Extranet details published

March (exact date TBC)

Provisional HEFCE grant announcements

14 April

Deadline for submissions

April to June

Assessment for approval by OFFA

Analysis by OFFA and HEFCE

Institutions should ensure that key members of staff are available during this time


Director of Fair Access announces decisions for institutions wishing to charge above the basic fee in 2015-16


12. We will continue with our joint monitoring process on an annual basis – details of the 2012-13 monitoring process will be available on Thursday 7 November 2014 at and

 Yours sincerely

Professor Les Ebdon

Director of Fair Access to Higher Education


Heather Fry

Director Education, Participation and Students



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Date: 6 November 2013

Ref: Circular letter 31/2013

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Widening participation and fair access, Strategic planning, Heads of finance, Marketing, Recruitment and admissions, Equality and diversity 

Enquiries should be directed to:

HEFCE: tel 0117 931 7180, e-mail

OFFA: tel 0117 931 7171, e-mail