OFFA praises university access improvements

4 Jun 15

The higher education watchdog has praised English universities for their success in improving the social mix of students they admit.

In its annual monitoring report, the Office for Fair Access said universities and colleges have met or were on course to meet 90% of the targets they set themselves in their 2013/14 access agreements. One-third of the targets have been met ahead of deadline.

The majority of targets related to disabled students (87% of targets met), gender (87%) and ethnicity (79%) have been reached or are on course to be achieved in the planned time.

Writing in the report’s foreword, Professor Les Ebdon, director of fair access to higher education, said: “The great thing about these numbers is that the aren’t just numbers. They tell a story of hope, opportunity and social mobility, a national success story of which the whole of English higher education should be proud.

“The lines on our graphs represent a growing number of real world people whose lives are being transformed and opportunities broadened by the work done through access agreements. That enriches universities, our economy and society more widely, as well as those individuals themselves.”

But Ebdon warned that, despite record entry levels, too many disadvantaged students failed to graduate and otherwise underachieved.

“In the coming year I plan to give renewed challenge to universities and colleges to build on their success and really get to grips with these differential outcomes.

“The impact that access agreements have had on entry rates for disadvantaged groups shows that they are a powerful lever for change and I want them to drive even more progress across the whole student lifecycle.”

Among the case studies highlighted by OFFA is Liverpool John Moore University, which has exceeded its target of recruiting 10% of ‘home’ students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. This was achieved through a combination of targeted engagement with local BME communities and specific bursaries.

The University of Nottingham was also praised for its work to support and mentor mature students who are less likely to complete their courses than their younger counterparts.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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