How to use the risk register

We expect providers to use the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register (EORR) to identify any of their prospective or current students likely to be affected by the risks and which groups may be most at risk. They should then consider how they can contribute to reducing the identified risks.

Identifying risks

What do we mean by ‘indications of risk’?

An indication of risk refers to the way in which a risk might impact a student group in a manner that is visible in data.

For example, a provider may see that there is a gap in on-course attainment rates for a certain group of students.

This is the indication of risk. It is not the risk itself, but it is linked to a risk.

We are not using the term ‘gap’ as risks may not always manifest in a gap, and some gaps may not be caused by a risk.

To develop an access and participation plan all providers should assess their performance.

In doing so, they may wish to use the OfS access and participation data dashboard, as well as any other relevant data sets.

Our guidance for completing access and participation plans sets out what a credible assessment looks like.   

The data that providers have available to them will show ‘indications of risk’. For example, differences in outcomes between two student groups might indicate that one student group is experiencing a risk to equality of opportunity. Data in isolation can rarely tell us why. Instead, a provider should use the EORR after identifying indications of risk using data, to start to consider why the risks are occurring. A provider should also consult with students, practitioners and the relevant existing literature.  

The EORR may be also used for guidance about the different datasets that are available to use, and to identify relevant student groups. 

Providers may see that these indications of risk exist for one or multiple student groups. Information about the student groups and/or characteristics a provider should consider can be found below.

If a provider identifies an indication of risk in its data, then a provider can look up which risk this may be associated with using the risk matrix.

Indications of risk may be the result of a risk, but they may also result from something else. We encourage providers to evaluate access and participation activities and explore whether a risk may be contributing to the risk manifestation. They can then use this information to inform the development of future interventions.     

It is important to understand that in some cases, the indications of risk may not be easily visible in the data for all student groups due either to small student sizes or because not all providers collect data to the same extent.   

In these cases, a provider could consider working on the assumption that the risk exists. It could use the ‘nationally, which students are most likely to be affected by this risk’ section of each risk to identify student groups and consider whether they have appropriate support in place.   

The EORR does not cover all risks to equality of opportunity for higher education. If a provider considers that something not covered by the EORR may be causing the risk manifestation that it sees in the data, it may also wish to address this issue.  

Our guidance on how to complete access and participation plans gives further information about how to assess performance in relation to small groups.   

Providers may also wish to consider whether a lack of information and data is contributing to a risk, and if so whether they can put in place any data collection systems to mitigate against this, or seek to develop better understanding through evaluation.   

Identifying student groups

Providers should consider how different groups of students are affected by the risks in the EORR. Under each risk we have identified students that are shown in national datasets and qualitative research to be the most likely to be affected, but we have not accounted here for any intersectionality.

We encourage providers to interrogate their data for relationships across personal characteristics, and to explore interactions between individual characteristics and geography or prior educational experience. We have listed some characteristics below, although a provider may explore others not included here. In doing so, a provider will need to ensure it understands the characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010.

For some groups of students and for certain risks it may not be possible for a provider to interrogate its own student population due to missing data, uncollected data or small student group sizes.

In these instances, a provider should consider referring to the nationally identified groups. It may also want to consider how it can use qualitative methods to explore the potential impact of the risk in its own setting.

*order does not denote scale or ranking system

Published 29 March 2023

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