Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation, explains why the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) is already showing signs of encouraging access and participation amongst young learners.
Access and participation is key to the Office for Students. We want to make higher education more representative of wider society – to ensure that, to quote the first of our four regulatory objectives, ‘all students, from all backgrounds, are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education’. This is definitely not the case at the moment, and we want that to change.
We know that one thing that is essential to this is targeted, sustained and progressive outreach that offers inspiration, increases aspiration and supports teenagers to make the right choices that open the doors to higher education. It helps young people to navigate a complex and often unfamiliar system, and to prepare them properly for life as a student if that is the path they choose to take at 18.
So I am very pleased to see the progress made by the OfS-funded NCOP partnership, which enables exactly this kind of outreach in an effective and efficient way. As this report shows, NCOP’s first year of operation is already showing signs of success. There are three key reasons: it is targeted; it is collaborative; and it is local.
NCOP brings together higher education providers, further education colleges, schools, the third sector, local agencies and employers, forming in-depth partnerships that mean young people get the robust advice, information and guidance at key transition points that they need. It is an intelligent, joined-up way to target resources where they are most needed – and specifically onto the geographical localities that will most benefit from investment because, while progress has been made nationally on widening access to higher education, the picture still varies greatly between different parts of the country.
Whether urban or rural, NCOP consortia help to ensure that the opportunities for social mobility that higher education provides are not limited by place, but open to all. In many areas NCOP activity is aligned at a local level with other initiatives and programmes such as the Department for Education’s opportunity areas and the Careers and Enterprise Company. And, by adopting a range of experimental techniques, as well as utilising longitudinal tracking, the programme provides a unique opportunity to understand better what approaches to outreach are most effective in different contexts.
I am pleased at how well the local partnerships are working and the impact that their activities and tailored support are beginning to have on learners from the targeted wards, and I want to build on this to bring even more benefit to prospective students. During 2018 we will be working closely with the NCOP consortia to support them to increase their impact still further, and we will review the whole NCOP programme and develop proposals for the future that ensure we maximise the benefits of collaboration in local areas.
This blog post is taken from the Foreword of 'National Collaborative Outreach Programme: The first year'. Read the full report