Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal
Guidance for national networks for collaborative outreach
1. In its announcement on changes to the National Scholarship Programme in November 2013, the Government announced funding of £25 million for the development of a national outreach network, to support collaborative approaches in delivering higher education (HE) outreach activity to all state-funded secondary schools and colleges (www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131128/wmstext/131128m0001.htm). This ring-fenced funding was subsequently confirmed in the Government’s grant letter to HEFCE of February 2014.
2. This document sets out the approach we have determined for allocating this funding, taking into account the Government’s expectations, and explains how institutions can access the funding.
3. We will allocate £22 million across the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16 to support networks for collaborative outreach. A primary aim of the funding is to ensure that all state-funded secondary schools and colleges understand how they can access HE outreach activity and to simplify the way in which they can do so. To underpin this aim we wish to establish networks for collaborative outreach and local single points of contact for HE outreach throughout England.
4. The funding will enable institutions to enhance existing outreach networks, and to develop new networks where these do not exist. To assess and ensure coverage we will ask networks to supply a list of schools and colleges with which they will work. We will map these data to identify areas where further network support is needed and where targeted investment may be required.
5. We recognise that, as well as recent reforms in the HE sector, there have been significant changes in the last few years across the school sector, including the growth in the numbers of academies (many of them sponsored by higher education institutions), the adoption of trust arrangements, the development of University Technical Colleges and the establishment of free schools. In addition, the development of Local Enterprise Partnerships may be changing the patterns of collaboration between institutions. These changes may lead institutions to find new ways to collaborate with each other and across the sectors. This funding may therefore enable institutions to innovate by testing or piloting new models of partnership and collaboration. We would encourage institutions with ideas for new forms of collaboration to contact us as early as possible to discuss them further.
6. The remaining £3 million will be used to develop a national tracking system for students involved in widening participation activity. This will be done by funding a three-year roll-out across England for the Higher Education Access Tracker network, thereby providing a stronger basis for institutions to evaluate and enhance their activities. Further information is available under ‘Higher Education Access Tracker’ on the HEFCE web-site.
7. The deadline for applications for funding for collaborative outreach networks is 1800 on Thursday 30 October 2014. Network participants should agree one lead higher education institution responsible for the funding, the establishment of a single point of contact and the network’s web presence. The lead institution will be responsible for completing the template at Annex A, which is to be submitted to HEFCE by the Accountable Officer of that institution.
8. To access the formula allocation an institution must be listed by the network’s lead institution on the template and supply a letter of support.
9. Institutions are encouraged to contact the Higher Education Access Tracker at their earliest convenience.
Purpose of the network funding
10. The national strategy for access and student success (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-strategy-for-access-and-student-success) highlights the value and effectiveness of collaborative approaches in delivering outreach activity to schools and colleges, and notes that effective collaboration requires significant commitment and investment from partner institutions.
11. The £22 million we will allocate to outreach networks is intended to contribute to the costs of sustaining and enhancing collaborative arrangements. We recognise that such approaches require extra effort, people and energy to promote and prioritise outreach activity, and this funding will support the infrastructure to allow this. Many institutions are already involved in collaborative outreach arrangements of this kind, so the funding can be used to enhance those arrangements and extend the breadth or depth of their current engagement through active co-ordination and promotion.
12. It is a key principle of this funding that it should not destabilise existing networks such that their long-term sustainability is at risk when this source of funding ceases. Similarly, we do not expect networks to change their name to reflect the national brand. Rather, existing networks should retain their established name and the partners in new networks may choose a new name. Networks should then identify themselves as ‘part of the National networks for collaborative outreach initiative’.
13. Networks should work for the partner HE providers they are serving, so institutions themselves should determine their structures and management arrangements, and also their priorities for outreach. Providing information to all state-funded secondary schools and colleges is a minimum requirement of this funding, but providers may wish to go further, for example offering outreach to primary schools or mature learners.
14. In identifying their priorities, the partner HE providers should take into account this guidance, which reflects the Government’s objectives for the networks. They will also wish to consider the diversity of relationships that are developing between schools and higher education institutions (for example through academies and University Technical Colleges), their own evidence and expertise on patterns of progression to higher education, and the different social and economic priorities being identified by Local Enterprise Partnerships (with which there are clear opportunities for matched funding).
15. We recognise that the level of support offered to different schools and colleges by a network will differ. Networks will wish to identify schools and colleges which need particular support to increase progression into higher education, as well as those which will continue to benefit from less targeted support, such as open days. We will ask networks to identify all schools and colleges they consider to reside within their sphere, at whatever level of interaction, so that we can conduct the mapping exercise.
16. We are keen that existing networks should be able to use the funding to develop their activity in ways that enhance the work they already undertake. With this in mind, we do not expect institutions to use this funding to subsidise or substitute for their current investment in a network or in collective activity.
17. We recognise that institutions may already be members of more than one local network on the basis of their local geography and the needs of schools and colleges. Institutions may continue to be part of more than one network, and may spread their funding allocation appropriately.
18. Where more than one network operates in a region, it will be for networks and providers to decide how information about outreach is communicated, bearing in mind that some information may be more relevant to one network than another, and some may be relevant to both or all. However, as the main aim of this fund is to simplify the way in which schools access information, we encourage overlapping networks to act together and use funding to minimise duplication, while ensuring that schools have a clear line of sight to the full range of available outreach.
19. We reserve the right to limit the allocation of flat-rate funding where there is significant overlap of networks.
20. Colleagues from HEFCE’s Institutional Teams will be pleased to help institutions with these discussions. Contact details for Institutional Teams can be found on the HEFCE web-site (www.hefce.ac.uk/about/staff/institutionalteamsandotherstaff/).
21. Some providers are part of a national network, although often their outreach is delivered more locally within that framework. We will be happy to discuss how this funding can support the work of these national networks.
22. To those institutions that are not members of a local network but wish to participate in the initiative and draw down their allocation, several options are open: they may negotiate to fulfil the expectations of this fund by joining with an existing local network, or they may group with other institutions to form new networks.
23. We know that a variety of successful models, involving a range of partners, have formed to provide outreach. In the majority of instances we would expect networks to include more than one higher education institution (HEI). Where this is not possible, we would prefer that networks affiliate to allow wider networking between HEIs. We would fully support several networks working collaboratively, where this increases co-ordination and choice in activity for schools and colleges.
24. Where institutions are engaged with schools and colleges on a one-to-one basis, our expectation is that these relationships will continue. We do not intend the networks to replace existing arrangements, but rather to enhance what individual HEIs are already doing where appropriate.
The role of the single point of contact
25. In addition to enhancing the infrastructure for collaborative outreach, networks should establish a single point of contact (SPoC) to ensure that all state-funded secondary schools and colleges in their locality have a clear access route to information on outreach events and activities.
26. It is for individual networks to develop the role of the SPoC. As a minimum this role should involve a full understanding of the local outreach activity available, and an ability to promote the web-site as an entry point for secondary schools and colleges. The SPoC should be able to provide information to any school or college interested in accessing activity.
27. In summary, the Government’s expectation is that all HE providers receiving this funding will be part of a network, which may be local or national, of institutions delivering targeted outreach activity to secondary schools and colleges. Each network should:
- provide a single point of contact
- establish a web presence, which will hold details of the individual and collaborative outreach activity available from each member institution
- act as a source of information to all state-funded schools and colleges within its sphere of activity
- actively seek to reduce duplication, identify gaps in provision and help its partner institutions to deliver more coordinated, coherent and sustained outreach programmes
- identify itself as part of a national ‘brand’ (but not change its name in the case of existing networks). New networks should establish their own identity and similarly link to the national brand.
How to apply for funding
28. Funding will be delivered to participating institutions in two ways:
- A proportion of the funding will be available as a flat-rate of £120,000 per network to enable the networks to establish the role of the SPoC and to develop their web presence.
- A proportion of the funding will be delivered through a formulaic allocation to individual institutions, to enable them collectively to support the network through, for example, the provision of core staff, office space or IT support.
29. Each network should agree one lead higher education institution to receive the flat-rate funding. The lead institution will be responsible for completing the template at Annex A, which is to be submitted to HEFCE by the Accountable Officer of that institution by 1800 on Thursday 30 October 2014.
30. The allocation for each institution in 2014-15 is provided in Annex B. For the lead institution to access this formula allocation to support network activity, all institutions in the network should be listed in the template, and should each provide a letter of support.
31. The template asks each network to identify the state-funded secondary schools and colleges which will come within its sphere. During November 2014 we will identify any gaps in coverage. We will seek to address these gaps by asking networks to extend their coverage or by commissioning new networks from 2015-16. We have earmarked £2 million in 2015-16 to achieve this. This will be reallocated to institutions if it is not needed.
32. We will ask all networks to send us contact details for their SPoC and links to their web-site by Friday 30 January 2015; these will be communicated through the HEFCE web-site to allow a full national picture to emerge.
33. We will ask networks to provide self-evaluations of their activities in December 2015. These will include financial information as well as plans for sustainability.
34. It will be for individual institutions to determine whether they wish to become part of a network. If an institution decides that it does not wish to join a network, its indicative allocation will be redistributed to participating institutions.
Higher Education Access Tracker
35. Systematically demonstrating the longer-term effects of outreach activity in England on the progression of young people to HE is a long-standing challenge. Recognising this, we have agreed with the Government to use a proportion of the available funding for the wider roll-out of the longitudinal tracking mechanism provided by the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT).
36. The HEAT service is a collaborative project run on a subscription model, governed and steered by its membership. HEAT helps subscribing HEIs to target, monitor and evaluate their outreach activity. It allows HEIs to follow participants who have taken part in their outreach activity from school into college, and then through to achievement in higher education. The service has been tried and tested over a number of years by a group of institutions, and has been found to provide significant economies of scale in terms of data collection, analysis and research. Importantly, HEAT provides a service which, while standardised to facilitate research and collaboration, is also responsive to the needs of individual institutions.
37. HEAT currently has 21 member HEIs, with more institutions wishing to join. Recognising that further expansion of the service would require a significant increase in resourcing, HEAT has worked with HEFCE to develop a three-year roll-out plan, using a regional model, which will enable institutions throughout England to benefit from the service. HEFCE, as the funding organisation, will oversee the roll-out. However, we are clear that this remains a sector-managed service and we expect that institutions and networks will develop the facility to best suit their purposes.
38. HEAT will remain a subscription service throughout the roll-out and beyond, meaning that institutions will be expected to pay a charge (currently £6,160 a year) to share in the service. Joining the HEAT service is entirely voluntary, but we believe that the benefits to be gained by joining are substantial. Institutions are encouraged to contact HEAT (Sharon Smith, e-mail S.A.Smith@kent.ac.uk) to discuss how their work might be supported by the service. It will take some time for all institutions to gain access to the HEAT service, but we are encouraging early contact. This will be with a view to structuring processes including data collection in a way that will enable transition into the service as seamlessly as possible during the roll-out.
Professor Madeleine Atkins