Evaluation in access and participation

Our vision is that evidence and evaluation is used effectively by the Office for Students and higher education providers to drive improvements in equality of opportunity.

Why evidence and evaluation matters

Our new approach to regulating equality of opportunity places a significant emphasis on evaluation. We want to eliminate inequality in higher education and to do this we need to be ambitious, prioritise effective activities, and understand what works.

We are asking universities and colleges to strengthen their evaluation activity, and then share their evaluation results publicly.

This is important because high quality evaluation allows universities and colleges to understand the impact of their work to support students, and make their own work more effective over time.

Sharing evaluation outcomes means that the higher education sector as whole gains more knowledge of the challenges and solutions linked to risks to equality of opportunity. This means universities and colleges will have access to a larger and more detailed body of knowledge to inform the design of effective interventions.

The overall outcome is a more informed, evidence-based and impactful approach to access and participation across the English higher education sector.


The OfS funds the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO), an independent hub for higher education professionals to access research, toolkits and evaluation guidance to help improve equality. They undertake and use research and evaluation to determine what works in eliminating equality gaps in higher education.

Resources and toolkits to support effective evaluation

We have developed a series of resources and toolkits for universities and colleges to use to strengthen their evaluation:

  1. National outreach coverage project: targeting tool
    Dataset and interactive maps to support outreach providers to improve how they target their outreach interventions.
  2. Standards of evidence and self-assessment tool
    Information and guidance documents on the standards of evidence universities and colleges should aim to meet when they evaluate their work on access and participation.
  3. Financial support evaluation toolkit
    Tools providers can use to ensure their financial support for students is effective and informed by robust evidence.
  4. Whole provider approach
    How to evaluate and implement a whole provider approach.
  5. Evaluation of outreach interventions for under-16s
    Guidance for evaluating outreach interventions for under-16-year-olds.

Effective practice

We have produced a series of topic briefings and case studies on effective practice in access and participation.

Our topic briefings collate the best available evidence that we are aware of in relation to different areas of access and participation work. They illustrate the value of high quality evaluation, acting as a key resource for providers planning future access and participation work.

They are a helpful resource for providers in developing intervention strategies for access and participation plans.

See our effective practice section
Last updated 29 March 2023
29 March 2023
Section restructure
06 October 2021
Added link to National outreach coverage project targeting tool
27 July 2020
Page restructure

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback