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These frequently asked questions relate to our funding for networks that support outreach activity to all state-funded secondary schools and colleges. 

Read our guidance about the national networks 

Please email or telephone 0117 931 7410 to discuss any aspects of this guidance or discuss any topic that is not covered or clear.

Section 1: Aims and overview

1. Why is this funding being made available?

The Government wishes to support the delivery of outreach activity across the higher education sector from 2014-15.

The national strategy for access and student success highlighted the value and effectiveness of collaborative approaches in the delivery of outreach activity to school and colleges. This kind of approach ensures that appropriate and accurate information, advice and guidance is easily available for teachers and other professionals working with prospective higher education students.

This funding provided through this new scheme will enhance existing outreach networks and develop new networks where they do not exist.

2. What will each network do?

Each network will:

  • nominate a network lead institution
  • provide a Single Point of Contact (SpoC)
  • 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
  • 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.

This is a minimum expectation. Many existing networks already perform a similar role. Existing and new networks can use this funding opportunity to trial new ways of working, add to their capacity or enter into new areas of work (for example, with different groups).

3. How much funding is being made available and for how long?

Across academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16, £22 million is available. We will split, and deliver, roughly via two ‘pots’ across the two academic years:

  • A flat-rate allocation of £120,000 per network, per academic year will fund the role of the SPoC and develop the network’s web presence.
  • A formula allocation for all participating HEFCE-funded institutions per academic year will help them to collectively support the network to which they are linked.

If more networks come forward than we are anticipating (and for which we have set aside contingency funding) we will not change the flat-rate funding of £120,000, but will reduce the formula funding for all participating institutions accordingly.

4. What activities can the funding support?

The funding is provided to primarily cover the costs of meeting the expectations set out in question 2.

We envisage that most of the flat-rate funding will cover the costs of the people and infrastructure to deliver these expectations.

The formula funding should support the costs of network partners participating in their network(s), including staffing and infrastructure. Some networks may find their staffing and infrastructure costs are already largely covered to meet the aims of the scheme. These networks should use the funding on activities which will deliver additional value. This might include developing and testing new approaches to outreach and evaluation for the benefit of network institutions and the schools and colleges with which they work.

We will not encourage networks to use NNCO funding to cover the delivery costs of outreach. Networks should bear in mind that the scheme aims to achieve national coverage of Single Points of Contact which deliver co-ordinated and joined up approaches to outreach activity.

This funding should also cover foreseeable costs, including any costs associated with post-funding cessation or reduction in activity after the funding ceases. As with all of our funding we reserve the right to audit any institution.

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Section 2: Funding

6. How much funding will my institution receive?

The lead institution for networks will receive £120,000 flat-rate funding for each year of the scheme (that is, in 2014-15 and 2015-16). Every institution participating in the scheme via their networks (and including the network lead institutions), will then receive a share of the remaining funds as a formula allocation, which will also be allocated in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

We have published indicative allocations for 2014-15 and 2015-16. We will confirm final allocations with individual institutions in the autumn, once we know which institutions are participating in the scheme and which are the lead network institutions.

7. When will institutions receive the funding?

The deadline for institutions to inform us that they are leading a network is 1800 on 30 October 2014 (please contact us if this deadline presents any difficulties).

In November we will assess the coverage of participating institutions and rerun the formula funding calculation to distribute that pot of funding accordingly. We will seek to issue funds as soon as possible after that point, in line with our standard payment dates to institutions.

We cannot guarantee that we will allocate funding to all institutions who submit a response to us (for example, if there are areas of significant duplication or we are not convinced that the network can deliver value for money).

We will issue award letters to all network lead institutions. These will contain more detailed information on the funding terms and conditions and monitoring arrangements. We will write to all participating institutions to confirm their formula funding allocation and publish the formula allocations on our web page about the scheme.

8. How were the allocations calculated and is my institution’s indicative allocation for 2015-16 likely to change?

We have calculated the funding using existing institutional data and have followed the methodology we use to allocate the widening-access element of the Student Opportunity fund.

It is based on 2012-13 student numbers the allocation is based on the sum of full- and part-time FTEs. Individualised data will be made available. For more information about this methodology, please see our ‘Guide to Funding’ (page 25 covers the Student Opportunity allocation). Email for any questions about institutional allocations.

Once we have issued final allocations after the deadline of 30 October we do not intend to change the student number base for the calculations. This means that the allocations presented should not change over the two years, to give institutions and networks the stability to plan ahead.

9. Which institutions will receive funding?

Most HEFCE-funded institutions will receive an allocation and can therefore participate in the scheme as part of a network, if they respond using the template at annex A in the guidance and provide a letter of support.

However, some further education colleges with low levels of directly HEFCE-funded numbers would only receive a small amount of funding. Consequently, we have set a funding floor of £2,500 across the two years in total, below which an institution will not receive an allocation. This enables as many institutions as possible to be included but ensures that the funding allocated is of a viable level.

Institutions offering only postgraduate provision will not receive an allocation, in line with our Student Opportunity funding methodology. Institutions which do not receive a formula funding allocation can still join in network activities, if they and the other network partners wish, by using other sources of income available to them.

10. What does my institution need to do to receive the funding?

The institution lead for each network will need to complete the application form in the guidance and submit it to HEFCE by 1800 on the 30 October 2014 on behalf of their network partners.

The template asks for a list of all participating institutions within each network. We have also asked for a list of schools with which the network works or intends to reach.

We will also require all university and college partners to provide a letter of support which confirms their commitment. The network lead institution will need to co-ordinate the submission of these letters with the application form. Institutions will receive formula funding if they are included in the lead institution’s submission and supply a letter of support (if the institution is also a lead institution it will receive the flat rate of £120,000 as well).

After the 30 October we will map the network’s coverage to assess whether it does not cover any schools and colleges. We will follow this up with discussions with networks and individual institutions to find ways of addressing any gaps.

11. Our institution does not want to participate. Is there anything we need to do?

We understand that some institutions will not want to participate in a network. It would be helpful if these institutions could indicate this to us, for our records, via email ( by 30 October 2014.

12. What should institutions’ own contributions to the network be?

We recognise that many institutions have been working with other institutions to co-ordinate and deliver outreach activity for many years. The contributions made to these activities will include funding from various income streams, including HEFCE’s student opportunity allocation and institutions’ fee income, resources and time. Institutions should continue to deliver their contributions as planned, and alongside the formula allocation participating institutions will receive in 2014-15 and 2015-16. This funding is not intended to destabilise existing networks, nor subsidise or substitute current investment.

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Section 3: How the national networks for collaborative outreach will work

13. We are looking to form a network with a national focus. What information should we provide?

We will be happy to consider institutions that are looking to form a network with a national focus. In these cases we will require additional information to make an informed decision about funding. To this end we have developed a more detailed form, available below. These networks should ensure that this paperwork is submitted to us by the same deadline of 30 October 2014.


Response form for networks with a national focus

Download the Response form for networks with a national focus as MS Word (72 KB)

14. What do you mean by ‘network’?

We mean a grouping of institutions and other organisations working together towards the specific aim of co-ordinating and delivering outreach activity to potential higher education students in a local area. One institution will lead the network for funding and monitoring purposes. Most typically, it will also host the Single Point of Contact (SPoC) and the network’s web presence.

15. What form can the SPoC take?

It will be for each network to decide on an appropriate structure for their work to deliver what is expected of them (under question 2). The SPoC might take the form of an individual, a team, or an office of people, depending on the needs and the size of the locality.

16. What information should we make available?

We expect the network’s web presence to contain comprehensive information on the range of activities and events run by the network partners with schools and colleges. These would include, for example, open days, taster days, presentations and workshops for all prospective higher education students, including mature students, disabled learners and primary schools where such activity exists.

The network should provide clear information about how a school or college can contact the SPoC to discuss outreach activities. It may want to link to other information, such as student finance, course information and information supplied through the Key Information Sets (KIS) and Unistats.

Many institutions already hold this type of information on their own web pages. The SPoC will need to bring this together to give a sub-regional or regional resource that schools and colleges can access.

17. Which schools and colleges should networks target?

The Government wishes to see a national model whereby all state-funded schools and colleges will be able, through their local SPoC, to access information about local outreach activities that can be made available to their students. All state-funded schools (including grammar schools, free schools and academies) and colleges, should be made aware of the information available on the web via the SPoC.

Many higher education providers already have a differentiated outreach offer and tailor their outreach activity to the different types of schools and colleges they work with in their local area, and have the appropriate resources in place to support this activity. We recognise that networks will want to continue to work more intensively with their target schools, and supply more targeted and tailored events to them as part of their strategies to widen participation. Other schools may be offered more generic events, such as open days.

18. What is HEFCE’s role in the national networks for collaborative outreach scheme?

We will help and support institutions and networks to engage in collaborative outreach and try to attain full coverage. We will calculate and allocate the flat-rate funding to network lead institutions and the formula funding to all participating institutions.

We also expect to have a relationship with the SPoCs, and to collect various monitoring information over the length of the funded scheme through the network lead institutions.

We will issue the guidance for the scheme and update it where necessary. We will also collate all of the network web links onto a page of the HEFCE website. We do not, however, set the aims of the funding, as this is the Government’s responsibility. Neither will we play an active advisory role with schools and colleges.

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Section 4: Network coverage and post 2015-16

19. My institution is linked in with more than one network, is this ok?

We recognise that some institutions will choose to partner with more than one network, and may already be doing so. These institutions should distribute their formula funding and their resources accordingly. We do not expect an institution to become the network lead institution or SPoC for more than one network, but institutions should contact us if they wish to discuss this scenario.

20. My university is the only institution in our local area or in our network. What are our responsibilities?

We know that many institutions in such geographical circumstances already do significant and valuable outreach work in their local region. We hope that the network-lead, flat-rate funding will give them some extra capacity to meet the aims of the scheme, and enhance the work they are already doing.

We expect these institutions to do their best to establish partnerships with, for example, local further education colleges which provide higher education. Isolated networks should also consider affiliating with other networks to try and extend the capacity of their outreach network. We would be happy to talk through these scenarios with specific universities and colleges.

21. Can a network be made up by one type of provider?

It will be important to see universities and further education colleges working together to meet the aims of the scheme. We would prefer to support networks featuring both universities and colleges within a local area, to ensure a comprehensive and joined-up approach. Further education colleges that HEFCE funds directly can be network lead institutions.

22. How will HEFCE know which areas of the country are covered by networks?

Once we receive completed applications from all participating network lead institutions, we will use the list of schools that networks provided to map current and intended reach against a full list of schools from the Department for Education.

23. What about areas where there is no network coverage?

There may be some areas of the country where there is no obvious or natural ‘fit’ either with the networks and partnerships that already exist or those that are forged as a result of this scheme. Using our map of coverage we will identify those areas and engage with networks and individual institutions to negotiate possible solutions. Our institutional teams will play a role in these discussions and networks should not hesitate to contact us to discuss their own ideas and thoughts on how we can ensure joined-up coverage.

24. How should institutions plan for the end of the HEFCE funding period?

This funding has been announced for 2014-15 and 2015-16 only. The funding is provided to stimulate activity and to identify how working collaboratively adds value. This should help institutions make informed decisions about continued investment beyond 2015-16, and investigate other funding opportunities, (for example, support through the European Social Fund and Local Enterprise Partnerships).

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Section 5: Interaction of this funding with other sources of funding

25. Can this funding be used to match fund other streams of funding?

This funding should not substitute any existing financial commitments to outreach work an institution may have made for these academic years. But institutions could use the funding to match fund or leverage further financial support, (for example, from the third sector, local authorities or philanthropic donations). Institutions also have a significant opportunity to match fund with support that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) can access through the European Social Fund, which starts a new cycle of funding in 2014 (through to 2020).

26. How will this funding interact with the European Social Fund (ESF)?

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been given a direct influence over most of the money England will receive through the ESF, and many universities and colleges are already key players in their LEP. One of the objectives for ESF funding between 2014 and 2020 is ‘promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination’. The work of outreach networks can help to meet this objective.

ESF funds have to be match funded at a ratio of 1:1. So a lot of activity to widen participation through the student lifecycle is eligible match-funding activity for the ESF. LEPs have already drafted strategies for their work, which includes the significant contributing role universities and colleges will make. Networks should discuss this opportunity with their LEP as soon as possible to make the most of both funding streams.

27. What about the financial commitments for this work already set out in our access agreement?

Institutions that charge fees above the basic level will have set out their outreach plans for 2014-15 and 2015-16 in their access agreements. They should continue to budget for, and plan to meet, these commitments, and the funding we allocate through the scheme should not substitute these commitments. Institutions can use the funding to enhance existing and planned activities, adding capacity and stability for the next two years. If an institution would like to discuss any particular details of its access agreement commitments, it should contact OFFA directly.

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Section 6: Monitoring arrangements

28. How will HEFCE monitor this funding?

We will need to ensure that institutions use the funding for the intended purposes. We will ask for financial assurances at the mid-point of the funded scheme in autumn 2015, and after the funding has concluded in 2016.

We will confirm monitoring arrangements in the award letters we will send to network lead institutions after the 30 October. It is likely that we will ask those institutions to co-ordinate such assurances on behalf of their network partners, although they will not be accountable for the funding partner institutions receive. We intend the level of reporting to be as light touch as possible, given the level of funding.

29. How will HEFCE monitor our network?

We will set out our plans for monitoring and evaluation in the award letters. Along with financial assurances, we will want to monitor the geographical coverage of networks and the types of schools and colleges they are reaching. We will also want networks to evaluate their impact on schools, colleges and other partners, and to look at their plans for sustainability. This information will help us to review the impact of the scheme against its objectives.

30. We may not spend all of our funding. What should we do?

We have issued indicative formula allocations to the majority of HEFCE-funded institutions. This should allow network partners to start planning their activity (although these amounts will be recalculated after 30 October, and are liable to change once we take account of the participating institutions and number of networks that come forward).

Network lead institution flat-rate funding will remain at £120,000. We will issue funding as soon as possible after 30 October. Networks should make the necessary arrangements to start activities, and spend the funding as swiftly as possible once they receive it in 2014-15. If an institution suspects that there may be some underspend or slippage in 2014-15, it should contact us as soon as possible.

31. What is HEAT and why is HEFCE encouraging us to join?

The Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) service is a collaborative project which helps higher education institutions (HEIs) in England track students that have taken part in outreach activities at schools and colleges, through to their achievement in higher education.

We have provided £3 million to fund and support the roll out of HEAT for 2014 to 2017. Twenty one institutions currently subscribe to HEAT. The £3 million will give the team capacity to absorb a greater number of institutional subscribers.

We are aware that some existing partnerships have started work to track and analyse similar data, and we have no wish to supplant these arrangements. Building a national picture is, however, beneficial. So we encourage such partnerships to work with HEAT by identifying how their tracking system might work with the HEAT system, and so help institutions overcome common challenges around this type of data and build a critical mass of information.

It will be possible to use some of the formula funding to support institutional subscriptions to HEAT. But institutions will want to consider the sustainability of this arrangement after 2015-16.

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Widening Participation Toolkits


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Page last updated 8 April 2016