Frequently asked questions
1. What does the DfE guidance letter say about Uni Connect funding for 2021-22?
The OfS received a guidance letter from the Department for Education in January 2021 which says the following:
Since inception in 2017, the Uni Connect outreach programme has established 29 regional partnerships of universities, colleges, employers and other local partners to provide sustained outreach to young people in schools and colleges in areas of low or unexplained gaps in higher education participation.
The programme has been successful in addressing cold spots in outreach and enabling engagement from schools and colleges. Funding for Uni Connect was originally agreed until July 2021, and so this is an appropriate moment to consider the scope and objectives of the programme. We welcome the current consultation on the future of the Uni Connect programme.
The Uni Connect programme has been successful in embedding a collaborative approach to widening access, which complements providers’ access and participation plans. Accordingly, we believe that future investment is best directed to support the core of partnerships, and funding targeted activities to fulfil specific policy objectives.
Therefore, the OfS should reduce the allocation for Uni Connect by £20m to £40m. This money will be redirected towards mental health and student hardship, two areas of increasing importance for students as a result of the pandemic.
2. What is the OfS’s response to the guidance letter?
The OfS sent a letter to accountable officers on 21 January 2021 outlining our response to the DfE guidance letter. The sections of relevance to Uni Connect are detailed below.
In response to these announcements, we expect to launch a consultation on our approach to funding, [omitted text], in mid-February 2021 and to make decisions following consultation in May 2021.
The DfE is proposing a reduction in the level of funding for Uni Connect to £40 million in 2021-22. In order to ensure that we are able to take into account any representations on this, we will make final decisions on the level of funding alongside the other funding allocations in May 2021.
To ensure continuity of this programme, we will write separately to lead providers and partnership chairs to confirm that £40 million will be the minimum level of funding available in 2021-22, and also to set out the indicative minimum level of funding for each partnership.
3. How will decisions be made on the level of funding for Uni Connect?
The total programme budget, funding methodology and allocation to support central programme costs will be subject to decision making by the OfS, having regard to the outcomes of both the Uni Connect and funding consultations, the level of teaching grant funding available, statutory DfE guidance, our general duties and the public sector equality duty.
4. When will the separate letter to lead providers and partnership Chairs be sent?
We intend to make decisions about the policy approach to the next phase of Uni Connect once we have completed our analysis of responses to the Uni Connect consultation.
We will send a letter to each partnership lead provider and Chair in March 2021 to confirm the indicative minimum level of funding for each partnership in 2021-22 in light of our policy decisions following the Uni Connect consultation.
5. When will we receive our confirmed offer letters?
We expect to write to each Uni Connect partnership lead provider confirming their final level of funding for 2021-22 in May 2021 once the OfS has made its overall funding decisions for academic year 2021-22.
6. Will indicative allocations be provided to Uni Connect partnerships in January 2021?
No. The Uni Connect consultation considers the funding methodology for distributing programme funding to the partnerships. Until we have analysed the responses to the consultation and made decisions about the method, we are unable to provide partnerships with indicative funding information.
7. What is the proposed timeline for implementing phase three of the programme?
||The OfS launches consultation on recurrent funding for 2021-22
||The OfS publishes decisions relating to the outcomes of the December 2020 consultation on a new approach to Uni Connect from 2021-22 to 2024-25
||The OfS writes to lead providers and partnership Chairs to confirm the indicative minimum level of funding for each partnership in 2021-22
||The OfS releases guidance setting out our expectations around partnership operating plans for 2021-22
||The OfS publishes decisions relating to overall funding levels in 2021-22
||The OfS writes to lead providers confirming funding levels, and our terms and conditions of funding, for 2021-22
||The OfS releases individualised operating plan templates for each partnership
||Deadline for submission of 2021-22 operating plans
||Phase three begins