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It is a central part of our strategy that all those with the potential to benefit from successful participation in higher education (HE) should have the opportunity to do so. Widening participation is, therefore, one of our key priorities.

We work closely with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and other bodies in the HE sector to achieve our aims in this area of our activity. 

Our work currently focuses on: 

  • building on the progress already made to increase the participation in HE of students from more disadvantaged communities
  • ensuring that social background does not inhibit access, success and progression within HE and beyond.

What do we mean by ‘widening participation’?

We see widening participation as a broad expression that covers many aspects of participation in HE, including fair access and social mobility.

We continue to emphasise - but with renewed focus – that addressing widening participation relates to the whole 'life-cycle' of a student in HE. This covers pre-entry, through admission, study support and successful completion at undergraduate level, to progression on to further study or employment.

Our funds for widening participation take the form of annual ‘non-mainstream’ allocations that help universities and colleges develop a strategic approach that covers this life-cycle (see How we fund student access and success).

We undertake data analysis to enhance our understanding of the key issues relating to widening participation and draw on this evidence to inform policy. See young participation for analysis of young participation gaps and trends.

Work with OFFA

We worked with OFFA to develop a shared strategy for access and student success which seeks to ensure that students are provided with the opportunities to succeed in HE and that institutions use the funding they receive from HEFCE and undergraduate fee income to maximise the impact and effectiveness of the considerable investment made by Government and students.

The student interest 

All our work to increase student access, success and progression will take place under our broader responsibility to promote and protect the collective student interest. 

This responsibility is outlined in the HE White Paper, ‘Students at the heart of the system’, and the subsequent BIS technical consultation. 

Equality and diversity 

Our responsibility in relation to equality and diversity will also continue to guide and influence the work we undertake. Funding will remain in place to support: 

  • institutions in their provision for students with disabilities
  • work continuing to understand better the variation in attainment rates for different ethnic groups.

See equality and diversity data on the HE sector, updated annually.

Page last updated 22 July 2015

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