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The deadline to submit your monitoring return is noon on Wednesday 20 January 2016.

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 (SO) allocation and the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) for 2014-15.

2. Institutions that had an OFFA-approved access agreement and SO allocation and NSP funding in 2014-15 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 these institutions separately with detailed instructions.

Deadline for action

3. All monitoring returns must be submitted via the HEFCE extranet at by noon on Wednesday 20 January 2016.

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. Completion of the tables relating to the SO allocation will fulfil your obligation under the Memorandum of assurance and accountability between HEFCE and institutions (formerly the Financial Memorandum) for the receipt of the SO allocation.

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 2014-15. 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. As set out in the Memorandum of assurance and accountability, it is a condition of NSP funding that institutions provide the requested information by the deadline date. 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
  • gather examples and evidence for topic briefings, and other projects to support and inform the sector about effective practice
  • 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 not already in dialogue with you
  • 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.  We will look at the impact of this expenditure and how institutions are evaluating it, and the wider evidence available on the impact of WP activity and funding. This will help us continue to build our evidence base on what works best to improve fair access and student success
  • 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. This data will be an essential element of the outcomes framework currently under development through which the HE sector will be able to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of its student opportunity activity.

11. HEFCE will use the NSP return to gain assurance that funds have been spent appropriately, and to collect information from participating institutions on the delivery of their NSP schemes and recipients.

12. 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.

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

Date: 16 November 2015

Ref: HEFCE 2015/31 and OFFA 2015/07

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

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 queries: Marnie Chivers, Analyst, OFFA, email, tel 0117 931 7020.
NSP and Student Opportunity extranet queries: Matthew Eagles, Analyst, HEFCE, email, tel 0117 931 7291.
Access agreements: Ben Spratt, Access Agreement Manager, OFFA, email, tel 0117 931 7171.
Student Opportunity allocation: Anju Kataria, Higher Education Policy Adviser, HEFCE, email, tel 0117 931 7153.
National Scholarship Programme: Kirsty Johnson, Higher Education Policy Adviser, HEFCE, email, tel 0117 931 7443