What do we want to achieve?
Our ambition is that future generations should have equal opportunities to access and succeed in higher education, and to achieve successful and rewarding careers.
To make this sort of transformational change happen, we and the higher education sector need to be bold and ambitious.
We will help the sector by publishing tools and guidance, but universities need to start thinking about this challenge now.
To meet our ambitions we have reformed our approach to promote transformational change.
Targets to eliminate inequalities
We have set ambitious and long-term targets for the sector. These are to eliminate:
- the gap in entry rates at higher tariff providers between the most and least represented groups
- the gap in non-continuation between the most and least represented groups
- the gap in degree outcomes between white and black students
- the gap in degree outcomes between disabled and non-disabled students.
We will expect providers to set their own targets working towards these long-term targets.
Access and participation plans
Access and participation plans set out how higher education providers will improve equal opportunities for underrepresented groups.
Under the new approach, the approved timescale of a provider's plan will reflect how likely or unlikely they are to make enough progress reducing gaps in access, success and progression. The first plans will be in force from 2020-21.
Providers will need to submit and publish a report on the impact of their activities.
This will be accompanied by an action plan that will set out any steps they need to take to improve their current access and participation plan.
We want results. So we will not ask universities to spend a minimum amount on access and participation. Though we will still look at how much they spend when we judge the credibility of their plan.
Instead, we will ask them to focus on achieving the ambitions they set.
National Collaborative Outreach Programme
We will continue to support the National Collaborative Outreach Programme for 2019-20 and 2020-21.
In the longer term, we want to sustain the programme's infrastructure, and align it with the work universities and colleges do through their access and participation plans.
Evidence and evaluation
We also want to make sure that universities use evidence so that their activity is strategic and has the greatest impact.
We are introducing tougher requirements on evaluation, including a self-assessment to be completed against a set of criteria as part of their access and participation plans.
Access and participation dataset
We have published an access and participation dataset for each registered provider.
This reveals challenges across the student lifecycle at a sector-level and provider-level, and provides more transparency on how we assess performance.
Read our publication about the new approach
How have we got here?
We reviewed our approach to access and participation towards the end of 2018.
This included a consultation, which received 189 responses and consultation events attended by around 400 people.