Response to ‘manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation’

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students (OfS), has today [Thursday 10 May 2018] welcomed and responded to a ‘manifesto’ suggested for his role in a publication by the think tank Higher Education Policy Institute and the charity Brightside.

The publication, ‘Reaching parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation’, contains views from 35 thinkers on higher education access and participation, including students, academics, university staff, experts from the charity sector, and MPs. There is also a list of 35 action points for the Director to consider.

Chris will join the authors later today at a roundtable meeting to discuss the issues raised in the publication.

Commenting on the publication, Chris said:

‘I am grateful for this wealth of expert advice, especially the contributions from students. I look forward to discussing these ideas with many of the authors today, and in the coming year as I develop the way that the OfS regulates access and participation.

‘I am pleased to see that many of the issues given priority are ones that I am already addressing in my guidance to universities and colleges.

‘For example, despite the progress made in access and participation for some groups, there are still wide gaps for mature students, for white males from the lowest income groups, and at the universities with the highest admissions requirements. And when students do enter higher education, certain groups also face real barriers to succeeding during and after their studies, particularly Black and Asian students and those with disabilities. 

‘I have made it clear to universities and colleges that I expect them to address these issues in their access and participation plans, which the OfS must approve if they wish to charge higher tuition fees. [note 4]

‘As the “manifesto” identifies, students need robust advice from trusted sources, and higher education providers have a key role to play in working collaboratively to achieve this.

‘Students need a genuine choice of routes into higher education at different points of life, including high quality technical routes, such as degree apprenticeships, that will work for students from all backgrounds.

‘Students need a more transparent and sophisticated admissions system that tackles the gap between potential and opportunity at the point of entry.

‘And students need universities and employers to face up to the reasons for differential outcomes within and beyond higher education, and make changes that mean everyone has a fair chance. 

‘To succeed across all of these areas, the higher education sector will also need more robust and common data, indicators and evidence of “what works”, and a longer term approach to evaluation and target-setting.

‘We will be focusing on all of these issues during the first year of the Office for Students. In doing so, we want to establish the basis for a radical increase in ambition next year, when we will agree new targets for universities and colleges to reduce the gaps in access, success and progression.’  

About The Office for Students: The new regulator for higher education in England. We aim to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers. Access and participation plans set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups to access, succeed in and progress from higher education. If providers want to charge higher tuition fees, their plans must be approved by the Director for Fair Access and Participation. 

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