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 and HEFCE funding for widening access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds (WA), improving retention (IR) and improving provision for disabled students (IPDS).
2. Institutions that had an OFFA-approved access agreement and HEFCE funding for WA, IR and IPDS in 2016-17 should follow all the guidance in this document about what to submit and how to do so. Institutions that did not have an access agreement but had HEFCE funding for WA, IR and IPDS and more than 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) directly HEFCE-funded student numbers need to follow the guidance for Table 3 only. HEFCE will provide a separate monitoring return for these institutions.
3. A glossary of key terms used in this guidance is published on the OFFA website (https://www.offa.org.uk/glossary); this glossary is relevant for all institutions completing a monitoring return, including those without an access agreement.
Deadline for action
4. All monitoring returns must be submitted via the HEFCE extranet at https://data.hefce.ac.uk by noon on Wednesday 17 January 2018.
Higher Education and Research Act 2017
5. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 sets out the Government’s programme of reform of the higher education (HE) system in England. A critical aspect of the reforms is the establishment of a new sector regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), from 1 January 2018. The OfS will bring together the functions of HEFCE and OFFA and will assume responsibility for future policy and all spending on access and participation from 1 April 2018.
6. Prior to 1 April 2018, HEFCE and OFFA will continue to conduct their business as usual, and as in previous years, need to secure evidence on the investments made and agreed with institutions. The evidence we are seeking in this monitoring guidance is central to HEFCE and OFFA fulfilling this obligation and it will also help to inform the approach to be adopted by the OfS and the new Director of Fair Access and Participation. You should, therefore, complete your monitoring return as usual.
7. You will receive a confirmed outcome from your monitoring return from HEFCE and OFFA prior to 31 March 2018. We expect that later in 2018 OfS will publish the sector-wide outcomes report arising from these returns and set out its future approach to monitoring and evaluation of access and participation activities.
8. All information and data collected as part of this monitoring process, including all rights to continue to process and publish this information, will be transferred in their entirety to the OfS in April 2018.
Why do we ask you to do this?
9. All institutions with access agreements are required 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. The Director of Fair Access to Higher Education uses this information in determining whether institutions may have failed to comply with any provision of their approved plan.
10. For institutions in receipt of the HEFCE funding for WA, IR and IPDS, it is a condition under the memorandum of assurance and accountability between HEFCE and institutions (HEFCE 2017/08) to submit a monitoring return so that we can ensure that the funds are accounted for and being used appropriately.
11. OFFA and HEFCE will also use the sector’s information from monitoring returns to conduct a sector-level analysis about the overall investment in widening participation (WP) activity and hardship, and how much of this was funded from OFFA access agreements and how much from the HEFCE funding for WA, IR and IPDS in 2016-17. Setting out your total expenditure on access, student success, progression and hardship enables you to demonstrate the breadth of your work in these areas, and helps us to understand how your access agreement expenditure and HEFCE funding for WA, IR and IPDS fit within your overall WP investment. The evidence submitted in this return supports our understanding of the impact of these investments.
12. OFFA will use the information submitted in the monitoring return to produce sector-level analysis of the approach institutions are taking to various priorities set out in the Director’s strategic guidance to support our work to understand, champion and challenge performance in the sector.
13. Sector-level analysis produced using the information in these monitoring returns will be published by the OfS.
Note: The sample monitoring return tables for institutions with OFFA access agreements were updated on 3 November 2017 to correct some errors in the paragraph references.