Access and participation plans

Understanding risk

The actions that providers set out in their access and participation plans should address underlying risks to equality of opportunity.

We expect providers to assess their performance and identify risks for their own students, and any other sector-wide risks that they can address.

'Risks' and 'indications of risk'

To do so, providers should analyse the data and insights available them. They can do this by using:

Their analysis should reveal ‘indications of risk’. By this we mean the way an underlying risk might affect a student group that is visible in data.

The indication of risk is not the risk itself, but it is linked to a risk.

Example of risks and indications of risk

  • A provider’s UCAS application data shows that students who receive free school meals are less likely to receive an offer than students who don’t receive free school meals, even once their entry qualifications have been taken into account.
  • The risk register (see below) suggests that this indication of risk may be caused by four underlying sector-wide risks: knowledge and skills, information and guidance, perception of higher education, and application success rates.

Using the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register 

To identify underlying risks, we expect providers to consider the risk register, which identifies 12 sector-wide risks.

The risk register asks providers to consider whether any of the risks are likely to affect their prospective or current students.

Each risk covers an area in which the evidence shows that certain student groups are likely not to experience equality of opportunity.

We have identified which groups are most at risk nationally.

Where possible, providers should use the risk register to interrogate their own data and explore:

  • who is at risk within their student population
  • how they may be affected
  • how they can contribute to addressing the risk either within their own student population or nationally.

Student groups and intersections

Some student groups are more likely to experience risks to equality of opportunity than others.

Some of these groups include:

  • students in receipt of free school meals
  • students with certain characteristics, including care experienced students, students who are estranged from their families, and students from Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities
  • students with a protected characteristic identified by the Equality Act 2010 who do not experience equality of opportunity because of that protected characteristic.

But to identify the greatest risks to equality of opportunity, providers should also consider how student characteristics intersect.

Looking at a single characteristic can mask the student group that is most affected by a risk.

An intersectional analysis may also help providers to design and target their strategies to address the risks in a more effective way.


Example of an intersectional analysis

For example, a provider may want to consider whether the application success rates of students who receive free school meals vary depending on:

  • whether they live in an area of deprivation
  • the type of school that they attend.
Read more about how to prepare an access and participation plan
Published 07 December 2023
Last updated 07 December 2023

No revisions made

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback