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The deadline to submit your monitoring return is noon on Wednesday 14 January 2015.

What this document is about

1. This document sets out the information that the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) need from institutions for monitoring of access agreements, Student Opportunity allocation and the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) for 2013-14.

2. Institutions that had an OFFA-approved access agreement and NSP funding in 2013-14 should follow all the guidance in this document about what to submit and how to do so. Other institutions need only submit some of this information. HEFCE will contact them separately with detailed instructions.

Deadline for action

3. All monitoring returns must be submitted via the HEFCE extranet at https://data.hefce.ac.uk by noon on Wednesday 14 January 2015.

Why do we ask you to do this?

4. There is a statutory requirement for institutions with access agreements to report to OFFA on the extent to which they have met the obligations set out in those agreements, and on the progress they have made against their milestones and targets.

5. OFFA and HEFCE need to know about your overall investment in widening participation (WP) activity, and how much of this was funded from your OFFA access agreement and how much from the HEFCE Student Opportunity allocation in 2013-14. Setting out your total expenditure on access, student success and progression enables you to demonstrate the breadth of your work in these areas, and helps
us to understand how your access agreement expenditure and Student Opportunity allocation fit within your overall WP investment.

6. Information about the NSP is required by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It helps the Department to report on the NSP to the Secretary of State and other Ministers. HEFCE uses the return to gain assurance that funds are being used appropriately, and to collect information from participating institutions on their NSP schemes and recipients.

7. OFFA will use your return to:

  • assess whether you have broadly met the commitments set out in your agreement. Where you have not done so, OFFA will expect to see a reasonable explanation and/or appropriate review and re-adjustment of plans
  • improve its understanding of trends in access agreement expenditure and outcomes across the sector
  • look at the progress you’ve made towards your targets and milestones, with a greater focus on trends rather than single data points. If the trend indicated by your monitoring return shows that you are making limited progress or regressing, OFFA may wish to talk to you about this further, if we are not already in dialogue
  • take into account your current performance, and whether your access agreement plans are sufficiently addressing any areas of concern, when considering your next access agreement.

8. OFFA will use qualitative data analysis software to assist with our analysis of your returns. This will enable us to gain a more meaningful understanding of the work being done across the sector, and to provide more in-depth analysis on institutional approaches.

9. OFFA and HEFCE will use your return to improve our understanding of:

  • institutional expenditure on WP activity, including how institutions bring diverse groups of students into higher education and support them through their study to achieve successful outcomes, what this expenditure is achieving, the totality of institutional evaluative activity, and the evidence available on the impact of WP activity and funding. This will help us continue to build our
    evidence base demonstrating what this expenditure is achieving
  • how your OFFA-countable expenditure and HEFCE Student Opportunity allocation fit within the wider context of your total spend.

10. HEFCE will use the WP activity expenditure data to understand the activity institutions are engaged in, the cost of this activity and how the Student Opportunity allocation is used towards funding these activities.

11. The individualised NSP data returned by institutions will be linked with Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data. This will allow HEFCE to analyse the characteristics of NSP recipients compared to the wider student population.

12. It will also inform the formative evaluation of the NSP which, as well as considering the programme’s operation and impact, is helping to
build a picture of the broader financial aid packages provided by institutions.

13. OFFA and HEFCE will also use information from monitoring returns to inform continuing dialogue with institutions and discussions during institutional visits.

What has changed since the previous monitoring return?

14. We have made some changes to our process and return this year that reflect strategic priorities and improve our data collection and analysis. We have limited these changes to ensure greater consistency in the process and in the data collected, and we have worked with institutional contacts to ensure that burdens are minimised.

Access agreement monitoring

15. We have restructured the reporting on WP activity to reflect the whole student lifecycle, so expenditure relating to progression is now collected separately from wider student success spend.

16. We have restructured some sections of the return so that we can more effectively analyse the information you provide, but without asking for more information overall.

NSP monitoring

17. The following changes have been made to the end-of-year monitoring template since the 2012-13 end-of-year collection.

    a. The tables have been reordered. Please complete them in the order they appear in the template, as some data from earlier tables are used to populate later tables. For example, the total amount of funds spent in 2013-14 in Table 14 (‘Summary of allocation and funding spent’) is now calculated from the data entered in Table 13 (‘Individualised data for the 2013-14 cohort’).

    b. Table 12 (‘National and institutional criteria’) now requests the ‘Institutional criterion description’ column (Column F) to be completed for the ‘Income’ criterion. This is to ensure that institutions that have used the national criterion for household income (less than £25,000) do not select income as an institutional criterion. This option should only be selected if you use a lower income threshold than the national criteria.

    c. Tables 13 and 19 (individualised data) now include a column for NUMHUS1. Further guidance on this can be found in paragraphs 157-158 of this guidance.

    d. Table 14 (‘Summary of allocation and funds spent’) has been transposed to make plans for
    underspending easier to monitor.

    e. Table 15 (‘Explanation for underspend’) now only requires completion if an institution has underspent its government allocation. Plans for
    underspending will now be entered in Table 14.

    f. The drop-down options in Table 18 (‘Delivery of awards’) have been altered to remove the ‘Other’ category. Institutions should select one
    of the options provided. Institutions should contact HEFCE if the new options mean they are unsure how to complete this table.

    g. The 2013-14 end-of-year return includes four extra tables (Tables 19-22) to capture information on students from the 2012-13
    cohort who received NSP awards in 2013-14. Institutions that awarded NSP awards to the 2012-13 cohort in the first year of study only do
    not need to complete these tables.

    What is the future for NSP monitoring returns?

    18. As set out in ‘National Scholarship Programme update for participating institutions’ (HEFCE Circular letter 24/2013), the NSP will cease after 2014-15 and the funding will be repurposed from 2015-16 to provide support for postgraduate study. HEFCE monitoring for the NSP will conclude in January 2016 with the final end-of-year monitoring return for 2014-15. However, institutions funding NSP recipients in subsequent years are asked to honour their commitments and should continue to fund NSP students for subsequent years as outlined in their original funding agreements. In order to reduce burden for institutions, HEFCE will not request in-year monitoring returns for the 2014-15 academic year.

    Date: 5 November 2014

    Ref: HEFCE 2014/28 and OFFA 2014/07

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

    Of interest to those
    responsible for:

    Implementation of access agreements, widening participation, National Scholarship Programme, Heads of Finance

    Enquiries should be directed to:

    Access agreement extranet queriesAdam Powell, Analyst, OFFA, Email: adam.powell@offa.org.uk, Tel: 0117 931 7020

    NSP/Student Opportunity extranet queries: Chris Nicholls, Analyst, HEFCE, Email: c.nicholls@hefce.ac.uk, Tel: 0117 931 7478

    Access agreements: Rachel Wright, Policy Adviser, OFFA, Email: enquiries@offa.org.uk, Tel: 0117 931 7274

    Student Opportunity allocation: Anju Kataria, Higher Education Policy Adviser, HEFCE, Email: a.kataria@hefce.ac.uk, Tel: 0117 931 7153

    National Scholarship ProgrammeKirsty Johnson, Higher Education Policy Adviser, HEFCE, Email: nsp@hefce.ac.uk, Tel: 0117 931 7443