Access and participation plan data

Monitoring data and outcomes 2020-21

This section reports on the monitoring of 2020-21 to 2024-25 access and participation plans (APPs) for the 2020-21 academic year. The data it contains is published as official statistics.

To reduce burden on providers and ensure that our monitoring is risk-based and proportionate, we did not ask providers to submit a monitoring return in respect of the progress they had made in relation to their access and participation plan for 2020-21. As such we also did not ask students to submit an optional independent student submission.

The information reported below is based on:

  • access and participation expenditure information in providers’ annual financial returns for those providers that submit them to us.
  • the updated access and participation data dashboard to assess providers’ progress against the milestones and targets in their plans.
  • other information we hold.

You can read more about our approach to monitoring for 2020-21 in our letter to accountable officers, sent on 15 March 2022.

Official statistics: access and participation investment

Providers have made investment commitments as part of their approved APPs. Their investment commitments cover outreach and student support activities that contribute to each provider's strategy and goals for access and participation more broadly.

Providers submitted information about 2020-21 access and participation investment through the 2021 Annual Financial Return (AFR).

Of the 244 providers that had APPs in 2020-21, 142 providers submitted AFR investment information to the OfS by 30 March 2022, which we have summarised below.

Further education colleges are required to submit financial information to the Education and Skills Funding Agency, as such we did not consider investment information for these providers. There are 82 further education colleges that hold a 2020-21 APP.

Providers did not explicitly capture support for disabled students in their 2020-21 APPs. Investment in this area is of interest for OfS regulatory purposes and was included in providers’ AFRs. Expenditure in this category can include, but is not limited to, the disabled students’ premium.

The information collected via the AFR corresponds to the provider’s financial year, which may not always correspond to the timeframe in which that provider has outlined its investment commitments in its APP. The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption to students and providers during 2020-21. We take account of circumstances that could affect a provider's ability to deliver its APP commitments on a case-by-case basis. We published guidance on our regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic on 25 March 2020.

Investment category APP commitments (£ million) Expenditure (£ million) Difference (£ million)
Access 204 179.1 -24.9
Financial support 346 406.2 60.2
Support for disabled students - 95.9 -
Research and evaluation 22.5 21.1 -1.4

The investment information above shows the total investment across all providers that had submitted AFR investment information to the OfS by 30 March 2022 compared to their investment commitments in 2020-21 APPs. Actual expenditure compared to investment commitments will vary for individual providers.

These figures have not been adjusted for inflation.

Progress against targets


We asked providers to set out in their plans the groups of underrepresented students they were prioritising and at which stage of the student lifecycle (access, success, or progression). We expected providers to focus on those student groups for which they identified the widest gaps in access, success, and progression.

Providers had to set ambitious, clearly defined outcomes-based targets that directly reflect their strategic aims and objectives, informed by their assessment of performance. Targets were set with an appropriate trajectory for meeting them over the five years of the plan and included annual or interim milestones which can be used to monitor progress.


To assess progress against milestones and targets, we used the updated access and participation data dashboard which we published in March 2022. To assess the delivery of financial support commitments to students set out in 2020-21 APPs, we used the AFR investment information submitted by providers.

Where there was no data available on the dashboard, or where a provider’s targets were not replicable using the data dashboard, we were not able to monitor the progress that the provider made in delivering their targets in 2020-21. Where no AFR investment information was available, we were not able to monitor the delivery of financial support commitments.

Of the 244 providers that had APPs in 2020-21, we had data available to conduct a monitoring assessment for 223 providers.

We reviewed the updated access and participation data dashboard and AFR information submitted by providers. Where these datasets were available for a provider, our review indicated that the majority of providers were either making progress in meeting the milestones set out in their 2020-21 APPS, were delivering the financial support commitment to students set out in their plans, or both. No further action was taken in relation to these 150 providers.

We wrote to the remaining providers to set out the concerns we had identified through the monitoring process and to highlight areas where we expect to see improved performance in future monitoring. These providers were not required to take any further action in relation to 2020-21 monitoring.

The monitoring process identified a small number of cases where the information we held did not provide sufficient assurance that the provider was taking all reasonable steps to comply with the provisions of its plan. Four providers have been asked to provide further information about the delivery of their APPs in 2020-21.

Progress against BAME attainment targets

Through the monitoring process, we identified 20 providers where performance against some individual targets had declined from the baselines set out in their 2020-21 APPs. The majority of these (15 providers) had seen a significant worsening of performance in relation to BAME attainment targets. This is in contrast to progress being made at a sector level.

Data from the access and participation data dashboard for 2020-21 shows that, at a sector level, positive progress is being made in reducing the gap in degree outcomes between black, Asian and minority ethnic students and white students.

Sector level BAME attainment gap 2016-17 to 2020-21

The chart shows a time series of the attainment gap between white students and students of other ethnicities for full-time undergraduate students from 2016-17 to 2020-21. Whilst the gap has been decreasing over time, it remains substantially above zero across the time series and remains at 8.7 percentage points in 2020-21. This means that white students had higher attainment rates than students of other ethnicities. The gap has decreased by 1.5 percentage points since 2019-20 when the gap was 10.2 percentage points, and has decreased by 5.2pp since 2016-17 when the gap was 13.9 percentage points. The associated confidence intervals for the gap are also well above zero and the gap is statistically significant in all years across the time series.
Source: Access and participation data dashboard, as published in March 2022.

We wrote to these 15 providers highlighting that the access and participation data dashboard identified they may not have met their targets to deliver improved degree outcomes for BAME students. We highlighted our expectation that they should monitor their compliance with the provisions set out in their APP and progress in achieving the objectives set out in the plan through internal monitoring processes.

Where a provider is not making expected progress, we expect them to consider the factors that might be impacting on performance and the measures that it might be appropriate to put in place to improve in future years.

Further information

You can find more information about how providers are tackling the black, Asian and minority ethnic degree awarding gap in our topic briefing "Degree attainment; black, Asian and minority ethnic students".

Read the topic briefing


For queries about the data, please contact [email protected].

For general queries about the monitoring outcomes, please contact [email protected].

Published 22 September 2022
Last updated 23 September 2022
23 September 2022
Changed the wording in the first sentence in the "Progress against BAME attainment targets" section to clarify that we identified 20 providers where performance against any individual target had declined from the baselines.

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