New website and guidance to support effective uni-school partnerships

A new website launched today by the Office for Students is designed to help learners, teachers and advisers find activities, advice and information on the benefits and realities of going to university or college through the Uni Connect programme.

graphic showing one person helping another person up some steps

Uni Connect is a programme funded by the Office for Students (OfS) that brings together 29 partnerships of universities, colleges and schools to improve awareness and access for young people to higher education. The OfS is also publishing three new independent reports evaluating the progress of Uni Connect at a national level.

The new website comes alongside new regulatory guidance – Regulatory advice 6 – that sets out further information about the ways in which a university or college can create a clear and effective access and participation plan meet the requirements and expectations set out in earlier regulatory advice. This new guidance follows the consultation that took place earlier this year.

The OfS recently published the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register that identified 12 sector-wide risks that may affect a student’s opportunity to access and succeed in higher education. The identified risks can be effectively addressed through collaboration. The OfS funds Uni Connect to support providers to work collaboratively.

In September 2023 Uni Connect partnerships will begin to directly address one of the biggest risks to equality of opportunity: pre-16 academic attainment. Uni Connect has already proved to have a positive impact on establishing connections between higher education and schools and local organisations to support learners in their regions.

In a new blog, Director for Fair Access and Participation, John Blake, wrote:

‘Those of you who have heard me speak, or who have read my previous blogs, will not be surprised to hear me say that building a robust evidence base around ‘what works’ in higher education outreach and attainment raising, underpinned by a strong culture of evaluation, is vital if we are to make progress in improving equality of opportunity for all. These expectations are embedded in our access and participation plans.

‘We also practise what we preach: evaluation has been integral to Uni Connect since its inception. The reports we are publishing today assess three key aspects of the programme: collaboration, impact and delivery … these evaluations demonstrate the impact and potential of collaborative partnerships in expanding equality of opportunity in higher education.’


Three independent research reports have been published by the OfS today:

The benefits of and barriers to collaborative access activity by higher education providers’ (CFE Research):

  • highlights the benefits of sharing of ideas and evidence of good practice
  • emphasises the importance of long-term investment and appropriate resourcing to build strong collaborative networks.

Fifth independent review of impact evaluation evidence submitted by Uni Connect partnerships’ (CFE Research):

  • identifies potential gaps in partnership activity
  • suggests that the support provided for learners through Uni Connect can increase their likelihood of applying to university or college
  • highlights the programme’s positive impact on skills and attributes such as self-confidence, resilience, problem solving and communication.

Formative evaluation of Uni Connect phase three: Findings’ (Ipsos):

  • explores how Uni Connect priorities are being delivered through targeted and strategic outreach
  • suggests that schools were positive about and responsive to the new priority of attainment raising.
Published 18 May 2023

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