FE institutions ‘should make student bodies more diverse’

19 Oct 17

Universities and colleges should make fundamental changes to diversify their student bodies and ensure increased access to higher education, the Office for Fair Access has said.

The non-departmental public body called on institutions to take a “whole institution approach” to widening participation and ensure fair access for students from a variety of backgrounds.

Liz Thomas, the author of the report, released on Monday, said: “It has long been recognised that a whole institution approach is the most effective way to increase access, improve success and promote the progression of students from non-traditional and under-represented backgrounds in higher education.

“The challenge has always been turning this institutional goal into a reality.”

She added: “This study has provided an important opportunity to explore how higher education providers are doing this in practice, develop our understanding of approaches that are working, and provide tools to guide institutions about what they need to do, and how to assess their progress towards this goal.”

Universities generate nearly £100bn for the UK economy and support 940,000 jobs throughout the country, another study found.

Les Ebdon, the director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said the approach is a way to recognise “the complexity” of participation in higher education as there is “no one-size-fits-all approach”.

He said: “Excellent progress has been made in widening access to higher education for the most disadvantaged young people. But for too long, this progress has only been incremental. We now need to see transformational change.”

Universities and colleges are urged to “make change happen” through the approach which “offers a vital opportunity to make further, faster progress that is badly needed”, he added.

The report included tools and case studies for higher education institutions to understand how to develop and sustain a whole institution approach in their own individual context.

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