Help improve equality of opportunity

How to organise a student submission

Each university or college will have a single student submission coordinated by a student contact, who should assemble evidence and give the student body an opportunity to contribute.

If you have thoughts, experiences or evidence that you'd like to contribute to a student submission, you should contact your student reps to see if they are organising one.

If you'd like to organise the student submission on behalf of your student body, our video gives an overview of how to do this, or you can read the detailed instructions below.

The process

Process diagram - 1. Select somebody to lead, 2. Gather evidence, 3. Work with your university or college, 4. Produce and submit

The student contact is responsible for coordinating, producing and submitting a single student submission on behalf of the university or college's students.

Ideally, the student contact should be a person with a relevant role in representing students, such as an elected sabbatical officer.

Once you've picked a student contact, email us to let us know who they are and their institutional email address.

We recommend that you gather some information from other students to inform your submission. The evidence can be qualitative, quantitative, or both, and can use the methods that best suit your situation. It should be factual and verifiable, rather than based on assertions.

Make use of any relevant existing information, such as previous feedback collected from students through course representatives, students' unions or student committees, or included in reports produced by your university or college.

Your university or college should be making commitments in its plan to work with its students on the design and delivery of the plan, so there should be information there about any student consultation and involvement. This may include activities such as committing to creating a student advisory panel, or forming focus groups for underrepresented groups.

If there aren't many student representatives, or existing information is limited, consider what the best options would be for gathering evidence. This could be targeted to fill any gaps that you identify, for example through focus groups, short surveys, or informal conversations with students or their representatives. Participation could be encouraged via mentions in lectures or relevant social media channels. You could also ask the person responsible for your university or college's access and participation plan to put you in touch with other students.

We expect universities and colleges to consider a range of ways in which they can offer support to their student contacts.

As the student submission will be commenting on the access and participation plan, we expect collaboration between those working on the respective documents. For example, in order to comment in the submission, you will need to be aware of the risks to equality of opportunity being highlighted by your university or college and the intervention strategies being put forward to address them.

When your university or college is writing its access and participation plan, it should consult with its student body. We encourage you to have a conversation with your university or college while you are developing your submission. To organise the conversation, you should get in touch with the person responsible for your university or college's plan. They should discuss the relevant information, and, where appropriate, support you in writing the submission.

Specific arrangements should be discussed and agreed between students and their university or college, and might include, for example:

  • ensuring student contacts know who their university or college's contact is for the access and participation plan
  • making sure student contacts have access to any data that the university or college has that would be useful for their submission. This could also include consideration of your university or college's data available through the access and participation data dashboard on our website
  • sharing any training on or analysis of the access and participation data that is being made available to people writing the university or college's plan
  • mutual sharing of drafts, where this has been agreed by both parties
  • coordination of content on key areas such as the risks to equality of opportunity identified by the university or college and how they plan to address them.

It will be for the university or college and students to agree what arrangements are appropriate and whether this includes financial compensation. It is not our role to incentivise student involvement through financial compensation.

When discussing how you would like to work with your university or college and what support could be offered, you should also agree boundaries to maintain the independence of the student submission. Independence means that the university or college does not try to influence the content of the student submission, and the student contact has the final say over its content. We ask that you confirm that the university or college did not unduly influence the content of the submission.

We've produced a recommended template for the submission (see Annex G). It is up to you whether you use this template, but this structure will make it easier for us to consider your submission. If you choose to structure your submission in a different way, you could still use the suggested headings.

If you find it easier, you could create your submission in a non-written format such as a video, podcast, or presentation. We encourage students taking this approach to use the prompts in the template we have provided so that you cover the relevant content. Where possible, audio or video submissions should be accompanied by a written transcript, which should be submitted as a PDF.

Send the submission to [email protected] as a Word document before or at the same time that the university or college submits its plan. If you wish to send us your submission in a non-written format, please contact us to discuss how best to upload it.

What should be in a student submission

The recommended template (see Annex G) sets out the headings that we would like you to cover in the student submission.

At the heart of what we're asking you to tell us about is whether your university or college has, in the opinion of students, identified the greatest risks to equality of opportunity and whether students think the intervention strategies to address the risks are credible.

Some student groups have historically experienced inequality in higher education. For example, disabled students have been less likely to progress to highly skilled employment or further education than their peers. There may be other barriers to higher education which mean certain student groups do not experience equality of opportunity. One example might be students with fewer financial resources being more affected by increases in the cost of living. We class such examples as a ‘risk to equality of opportunity’.

We have published what is known as an Equality of Opportunity Risk Register (EORR). The EORR is part of our new regulatory approach to improving equality of opportunity in higher education.

The EORR identifies 12 key risks that may affect a student's opportunity to access and succeed in higher education. Each risk covers an area in which the evidence shows that certain student groups are less likely to experience equality of opportunity.

We expect your university or college to consider the EORR when writing its access and participation plan. The EORR asks universities and colleges to consider which, if any, of their prospective or current students are likely to be affected by the risks, and how they can contribute to reducing these risks.

To develop its access and participation plan, your university or college should first assess its performance. Risks to equality of opportunity are likely to contribute to the issues a provider identifies through its assessment of performance. We call these ‘indications of risk’. For example, lower continuation rates from year one to year two for a specific student group is an indication of risk. The underlying risks to equality of opportunity may be insufficient academic support and cost pressures.

Your university or college should also consider the EORR when it makes this assessment as a way of not only identifying risks but also the relevant student groups. Groups that may be targeted by access and participation plan intervention strategies include, but are not limited to:

  • students in receipt of free school meals
  • students with certain characteristics, including care experienced students, students who are estranged from their families, and students from Gypsy or Roma ethnic groups, or the Boater and Showpeople communities.
  • students with a protected characteristic identified by the Equality Act 2010 who do not experience equality of opportunity because of that protected characteristic. The characteristics include:
    • age
    • disability
    • gender reassignment
    • marriage or civil partnership
    • pregnancy and maternity
    • race
    • religion or belief
    • sex
    • sexual orientation
  • students who experience multiple barriers to higher education or who are identified when looking at intersections of characteristics, such as male students who are in receipt of free school meals.

Your university or college should consider how different groups of students are affected by the risks in the EORR.

The EORR does not cover all risks to equality of opportunity, so if your university or college considers that something not covered by the EORR may be creating a risk, it may also wish to address that.

Your university or college is expected to set out intervention strategies to address the identified risks and meet each of its objectives.

An intervention strategy will link risks to equality of opportunity with an objective, a target, activities and how they will evaluate all those elements working together. Each university and college may have more than one intervention strategy in their access and participation plan.

In the student submission, we would like you to state whether the student body agrees that your university or college has:

  • identified its greatest risks to equality of opportunity
  • set out credible intervention strategies to address these risks.

Including sensitive information

Consider data protection issues. Don't include personally identifying information that is not already in the public domain, or where that person has not given consent.

For example, you should not normally include names of individual students or staff, or details about them which would allow someone to identify them.

If you are unsure about whether you can include something in your submission, discuss it with your university or college, or contact us.

You should also avoid making statements that could be considered defamatory, taking particular care to ensure statements are factually true, rather than assumptions or opinions presented as facts, and consider the potential for statements to cause financial or reputational harm.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please email us:

[email protected]

Published 14 June 2023

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