How to evaluate and implement a whole provider approach

Why is this important?

Effective practice indicates that access and participation plan targets are more likely to be achieved when the strategy is enacted at all levels of an organisation through a whole provider strategic approach.

Key features of the whole provider strategic approach in the context of access and participation include:

  • A full student lifecycle approach is adopted which extends from pre-entry support, to on-course success, to post-graduation progression. In many cases this starts with supporting potential learners from primary age upwards, and includes pre-entry outreach, admissions, transition, learning and teaching, student engagement and support and access to postgraduate study and/or employment.
  • Staff from across the provider are actively involved, with access and participation valued as integral to their roles.
  • Students representing the breadth of the student population, are engaged in formulating, supporting and evaluating access and participation across the provider.
  • A clear organisational-wide commitment, including leadership from senior management and governing bodies, to access and participation. This commitment is backed up with clearly defined target groups and expected outcomes that are shaped by evidence and aligned with other core strategies, for example those relating to equality, diversity and inclusion; learning and teaching; and business and community engagement.


Regulatory advice 6: How to prepare your access and participation plan is a step-by-step guide for creating an access and participation plan. It includes effective practice advice on developing and delivering a successful strategy, including whole provider approaches.

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) commissioned small scale, exploratory research in 2017 to address the following questions:

  • What is involved in a ‘whole provider’ approach to widening participation?
  • How can a whole provider approach be implemented and managed?
  • What strategies and tools can be used to evaluate a whole provider approach to widening participation?
Published 08 March 2021

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