We are committed to evaluating our approach to access and participation. To understand our impact and to ensure continuous improvement we commissioned consultants Nous Group to undertake a two-part review of our recent reforms to the access and participation plan process.
The aim of the review was to understand the extent to which our reforms have led to greater ambition and positive behavioural change.
Part one: qualitative analysis
Part one of the analysis looked at changes between the content of the 2018-19 Office for Fair Access (OFFA) access agreements, the OfS 2019-20 access and participation plans and the five-year 2020-21 to 2024-25 access and participation plans.
The findings were positive. They showed that:
Read the analysis from part one
- providers are responsive to the changes in guidance
- providers increasingly reported more diverse student groups
- strategic approaches to access and participation were evident
- descriptions of whole-provider approaches increased
- providers made efforts to engage students in access and participation
- providers demonstrated continuous improvement in evaluation.
Part two: ambition and changing behaviour
Part two of the evaluation looked at the extent to which our regulatory action has led to greater ambition and changes in behaviour necessary for equality of opportunity in higher education.
It found that the OfS’s reforms were one of the main causes for this increased ambition. Most notably:
- The main elements of the reforms we put in place, such as the move to five-year plan approval, outcomes-based targets, a focus on whole-provider approach, and being part of the registration process, have significantly contributed to the engagement of senior management and increased ambition within access and participation plans.
- There has been significantly more robust evaluation which has underpinned providers strategic measures.
- Student engagement in the development and delivery of access and participation plans has significantly increased following the reforms.
- The support resources we put in place, such as guidance documents (notably
regulatory notice 1), briefings and telephone surgeries, were helpful to providers in understanding our expectations and requirements.
Alongside the report’s many positive findings, we acknowledge some of the challenges that it has raised.
Read the evaluation from part two
Read the OfS's response