Through 29 local partnerships across the country, Uni Connect (@officestudents) provides long-term coordinated information, advice and guidance and outreach to support student progression to further and higher education. The consultation published today will give Uni Connect partnerships, schools, colleges and other stakeholders with an interest in equality of opportunity in higher education the chance to help inform a new approach to the programme from 2021-22 onwards.
The proposals set out a new way of tackling equality gaps for underrepresented learners by identifying and delivering outreach within the highest-priority schools and colleges. There are also plans to provide a greater focus on progression from non-traditional routes into and through higher education, including through further education and among mature learners, and to enable partnerships to shape their work to meet the needs of groups that may need particular support in local areas, such as care experienced students.
In 2018-19, OfS data showed that there was a gap of 29.9 percentage points between young entrants from the most and least represented groups across all universities and colleges in England. UCAS data for the current cycle also indicates that, while the number of 18-year-olds from the least represented areas placed in higher education has increased, the gap between the most and least represented groups has widened.
Alongside the consultation, a new independent review of evaluation evidence submitted by Uni Connect partnerships has also been published. The report shows how multiple engagement with learners – which is achieved through the programme’s targeted and sustained approach – has a positive impact on the most disadvantaged pupils, including on their confidence in making decisions about their course of study. The review also highlights the benefits of in-depth subject insights secured through the programme to older year groups, and how learners are inspired by students from similar backgrounds. These findings will influence the next phase of Uni Connect work.