About the risk register

Many students do not experience equality of opportunity in higher education. This is true across the three main stages of a student’s higher education journey: access, participation and progression.

The Equality of Opportunity Risk Register (the EORR) identifies 12 sector-wide risks that may affect a student’s opportunity to access and succeed in higher education.

The EORR asks providers to consider:

Which, if any, of their prospective or current students are likely to be affected by the risks, and how these might be mitigated.

What do the risks show?

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 EORR 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. 

Regulating equality of opportunity

The EORR is part of a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity in higher education.

We expect providers to consider the EORR when writing their access and participation plans.

They should also use the information in this section alongside:

Providers can use the EORR to consider the various risks that different groups of students might face and the ways in which these risks may interact. From this, they can consider how they can contribute to reducing these risks.

The new approach also asks providers to increase their evaluation of interventions and to feedback results to the sector. We anticipate in subsequent years we will be able to use the evidence gathered through these evaluations to improve the EORR.

The EORR has also been designed as a key tool to implement our obligations as a public body under the Equality Act 2010.

However, the risks identified also extend to student characteristics that are not covered by the Equalities Act 2010, but who are likely to experience a risk to equality of opportunity as a result of the risk. For example, we include consideration of care experienced students and students who have been eligible for free school meals.  

See more about how to use the EORR

Limitations of the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register

The coverage of the EORR is limited.

We have chosen to focus on risks that multiple student groups experience across the higher education lifecycle. The chosen risks are those that are underpinned by existing research, and it may be the case that we are not aware of certain risks.

Some of the risks that we have included are underpinned by quantitative data that can be found at a national and/or provider level. Others are supported by qualitative research.

In looking at ways in which a risk may be visible in relation to higher education, we have included only those visible in data (including qualitative research). We encourage providers to consider and feedback on any other significant risks that are visible.

Some groups of students are missed out of datasets (particularly in smaller providers) or are subsumed within broader categories of students that may ‘mask’ their experiences.

By using the EORR to highlight these issues, we want to raise awareness and prompt individual providers and the sector to explore how they might address them in the future.

Our increased evaluation expectations for new access and participation plans will further contribute to this goal.

On each risk page we have included a ‘help us improve the EORR’ button, and we plan to update the EORR to ensure that it reflects the most up-to-date information available to us. 

Developing the risk register

The EORR has been developed through an analysis of:

  • data held by the OfS, the Department for Education and UCAS
  • relevant research papers
  • a literature review conducted by TASO in December 2022 that sought to identify risks to equality of opportunity in higher education.

We have also consulted with representatives from across the education sector, and have taken into account responses received through our recent consultation on consultation on a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity in English higher education.

Published 29 March 2023

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