The Office for Students (OfS) will expect universities and colleges to set tougher targets for disadvantaged students under new proposals laid out in a consultation paper.

Recently published, the document proposes a raft of changes to the way it pushes English higher education providers to improve equality of opportunity for students.

At the heart of the new approach is an expectation to set targets and make progress on:

– working with schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to improve pupils’ results and encourage them to consider higher education as a realistic path for them

– improving entry rates for underrepresented groups, for example young people from poorer families and places

– reducing drop-out rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds

– tackling disparities in degree attainment and employment outcomes between different groups, such as students of different ethnicities and those with disabilities.

OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation Chris Millward commented:

“Everyone with the talent to succeed in higher education should have equal opportunity to do so, but that’s not currently the case.

You are more than twice as likely to go to university if you grow up in a more advantaged neighbourhood, and five times as likely to attend one of the most selective universities. So many talented people are being failed by a system that should be a gateway to a rewarding life. This is simply not acceptable.

As the higher education regulator working to promote students’ interests, the Office for Students has a new set of tools to make universities and colleges improve access, success and progression for disadvantaged students. This consultation is about making sure we’re using those tools in the most effective way.

It’s the biggest shake up of access and participation regulation since 2004, and we think it has truly exciting potential to really ratchet up the pace of change. These changes will reduce red tape, freeing up higher education staff to do more direct, long-term work with students, families, schools and communities. But we will also increase our scrutiny of the progress universities and colleges are making, and intervene where necessary to make change happen.”

Link to full article and post by Chris Millward can be found here

Your views on the consultation:

The OfS are welcoming responses from anyone with an interest in access and participation. They are interested in hearing from students, staff, academics and leaders at higher education providers that will be engaging in the new arrangements resulting from the review. They are also interested in the views of schools and further education colleges, employers, third sector organisations, policy bodies, and others with an interest in equality of opportunity in education.

You can respond to the consultation using the online survey

or by post to:

Access and participation consultation
Westward House
Lime Kiln Close
Bristol BS34 8SR

or by phone on 0117 931 7123