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Demonstrating the effectiveness and impact of student access, success and progression 

We aim to promote and provide the opportunity for successful participation in higher education to everyone who can benefit from it. The funds we allocate to institutions support this aim directly. 

Outcomes framework 

We have been working with researchers and institutions to develop an outcomes framework to understand clearly the impact of widening participation and our funds.  

This work follows the Government’s publication of the National Strategy for Access and Student Success. 

We commissioned and published two research projects to develop the framework. 

‘Deep dives’

An in-depth study and survey has put together ‘deep dive’ case studies with a group of 25 institutions.

These aim to understand how the outcomes framework could measure the relative impact of a wider range of access and student success activities and expenditure.

Data returns

Another project has looked at the data institutions can provide. It:

  • developed and piloted annual data returns from universities and colleges that receive the Student Opportunity allocation as part of their annual teaching grant 
  • developed a conceptual framework for understanding the return on investment from the allocation, in terms of the activities it supports and the benefits arising for individuals and their local communities, and the economy and society more broadly.

This project worked with a group of 15 institutions. It explored which data they are currently able to provide and which data might be desirable to collect in future in order to demonstrate impact.


In April 2016 we held a conference entitled 'The future of evaluation and evidence across the student lifecycle'. The conference explored what the sector as a whole needs to evaluate institutional activity on student access, success and progression across the student lifecycle. 

See the presentation slides from the event.

Earlier activity

In 2009 we asked institutions to submit widening participation 'strategic assessments' in return for receiving funds for widening participation. 

Action on Access published thematic reviews of these assessments for higher education institutions and further education colleges. 

With the changes introduced in 2012-13 to the way higher education, we asked institutions to submit one-year ‘interim widening participation strategic statements’. 

The interim statements helped us to understand how institutions were: 

  • responding to the changing environment
  • adapting their widening participation strategies in response to the reforms. 

We then asked institutions to extend or update their statement for 2013-14. 

We are no longer requesting widening participation strategic statements from institutions. 

Annual monitoring 

Since 2009 we have asked institutions to supply annual reports. 

2015-16 monitoring

HEFCE and OFFA are carrying out joint monitoring of institutions’ widening participation (WP) activity expenditure and hardship expenditure in 2015-16 and have issued joint guidance on how to complete the monitoring return for Access agreements and Student Opportunity allocation for 2015-16.

2014-15 monitoring 

HEFCE and OFFA conducted joint monitoring of institutions’ widening participation (WP) activity expenditure and hardship expenditure in 2014-15. 

OFFA published its report on the outcomes of access agreement monitoring for 2014-15 in May 2016 and its report on the outcomes of monitoring of institutional evaluation and equality and diversity in 2014-15 access agreements in July 2016.  

HEFCE published its report on the outcomes of the Student Opportunity allocation (SOA) and the National Scholarship Programme monitoring (NSP) for 2014-15 in July 2016. 


We have been working with institutions to develop approaches to evaluating their widening participation commitments. 

To help them, we published guidance. This highlights good practice, tools and resources. 

We have used the annual monitoring process to collect information on institutions’ plans for evaluation and the findings from their work. 

To further help in evaluation we are funding the roll-out of the Higher Education Access Tracker over 2014-15 to 2016-17. 

Further information 

For further information on the outcomes framework please contact Jennifer Allen, 0117 931 7225. 

For queries about the annual monitoring process, contact Anju Kataria, 0117 931 7153. 

For further information about the roll-out of the Higher Education Access Tracker, contact Clair Murphy, 0117 931 7138.

Page last updated 7 November 2016