What do we want to achieve?
Some groups of people are less likely to achieve the qualifications needed to study in higher education and these gaps in achievement are apparent from a young age.
There is also inequality between groups once they get into higher education and some people are more likely to do well than others, even when their prior academic performance is the same.
Our ambition is that future generations should have equal opportunities to access and succeed in higher education, and to achieve successful and rewarding careers.
To achieve this ambition we have set out what we expect from all universities and colleges registered with the OfS.
We consider underrepresented groups to include:
- students from areas of low higher education participation, low household income or low socioeconomic status
- some black, Asian and minority ethnic students
- mature students
- disabled students
- care leavers
- people estranged from their families
- people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
- children from military families.
Our new priorities
In early 2022 we set out new priorities for access and participation, which builds on the work we’ve done so far.
We asked universities and colleges to:
- partner with schools and other local organisations to raise the attainment of young people
- develop more diverse pathways into and through higher education through more flexible courses
- ensure access leads to participation on high quality courses and secures good graduate outcomes
- improve the quality and volume of evaluation of access and participation plan activity
- make access and participation plans more accessible in a way that prospective students, their parents and other stakeholders can easily understand.
We asked universities and colleges to refocus their access and participation plans to show how they are addressing these new priorities alongside taking all reasonable steps to comply with the provisions of their existing plans.
Consultation on a new approach
We recently consulted on a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity in English higher education. We proposed that the reforms should take effect for plans from 2024-25 onwards. This would mean that from spring 2023 all providers with an access and participation plan will be expected to submit a new plan to cover 2024-25 to 2027-28.
The outcomes of this consultation including guidance on future access and participation plans for 2024-25 onwards will be published in spring 2023.
Find out more about the consultation