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Executive summary


1. This document presents the outcomes from the Office for Fair Access’ (OFFA’s) and Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE’s) monitoring of access agreements, widening participation strategic statements1, and the National Scholarship Programme for 2012-13.

Key findings

2. Overall, at a sector level, our monitoring shows that in 2012-13, universities and colleges:

  • significantly increased their activity to widen access and improve student success among students from low income and other under-represented groups. In particular there were steep increases in outreach work and work to support progression into employment and postgraduate education
  • spent a larger proportion of the income they received from charging fees above the basic level (“higher fee income”) on access and student success measures than in 2011-12 (this key finding only refers to universities and colleges with access agreements) 
  • increased the average level of targeted financial awards for individual students from low income and other underrepresented groups, although fewer students received an award than in 2011-12 (this key finding only refers to universities and colleges with access agreements)
  • deilvered National Scholarship Programme awards over and above the minimum number required
  • met, exceeded or made progress towards the great majority of their access agreement milestones and targets (this key finding only refers to universities and colleges with access agreements)
  • reported an increasingly evidence-based approach to choosing where they focused investment/activity
  • worked collaboratively, particularly around outreach and evaluation
  • aligned their work on equality and diversity more closely with their work on access and student success.

3. Widening access and supporting student success are important, continuing priorities for both HEFCE and OFFA. The monitoring returns show that:

  • HEFCE funding for widening participation (WP) underpins higher education providers’ work to achieve their WP goals, by supporting the infrastructure through which their activity is delivered
  • the rise in the tuition fee cap to £9,000 has increased the resources available for universities and colleges to invest in WP through access agreements compared to the previous fee and&nbsp funding arrangements, with a greater differentiation in expenditure according to each university or college’s performance.

4. The findings in this report represent a snapshot of activity in 2012-13 as monitoring is necessarily retrospective. Universities and colleges are now planning their activity for 2015-16 and future years, with the support of the national strategy for access and student success2, which was developed by HEFCE and OFFA and published in April 2014. The strategy aims to help the higher education sector build on its achievements to date, adding fresh impetus to current and future work, delivering faster progress, supporting innovation, helping to identify gaps where more effort should be focused and maximising the impact of the investments made by Government and the sector.


1 In June 2012, institutions submitted interim widening participation strategic
statements covering the academic year 2012-13.

2 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, National strategy for access and student success (April 2014).

Date: 17 July 2014

Ref: HEFCE 2014/15 and OFFA 2014/05

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Widening participation, The National Scholarship Programme