New ‘What Works’ centre to help universities cut equality gaps

New ‘What Works’ centre to help universities cut equality gaps


A new independent centre funded by the Office for Students (OfS) is set to help universities meet challenging targets to eliminate equality gaps in higher education within 20 years.

At present, around £800 million is spent by universities on improving access and outreach, but there is relatively limited hard evidence on what works most effectively.

An evidence and impact exchange – which will be set up by a consortium from King’s College London, Nottingham Trent University and the Behavioural Insights Team – will promote equality of opportunity by providing evidence on the impact of different approaches to widening access and improving outcomes and progression for disadvantaged students.

It follows the OfS’s announcement of ambitious targets to eliminate gaps in entry and drop-out rates between the most and least represented groups, and gaps in degree outcomes between white and black and disabled and non-disabled students.

The OfS is also publishing new guidance for the access and participation plans universities must set towards these targets and have approved as a condition of their registration with the OfS.

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said: "All students should have equal opportunities to access and succeed in higher education, and to achieve successful and rewarding careers, but this is not currently the case, and the rate of progress in achieving equality is far too incremental.

"We are committed to achieving transformational change, and we’re setting high expectations through our regulation to make that happen. But we’re also investing significantly in supporting universities to meet their targets by working in the most impactful ways.

"A huge amount of time, money and resources are already invested in access and participation, but there is a lack of understanding about what works, and staff working at the coal face have been calling for a central place for evidence on effective approaches to be systematically gathered and shared. The evidence and impact exchange will meet this need, improving outcomes for students and providing better value for money on the investments that are made.

"At the same time, we will expect universities to set stretching targets for themselves and take real action to close gaps in their institutions. This is the start of a new, more strategic approach to improving access and participation, and we expect universities to up their game.

"I often hear university leaders say that improving equality of opportunity and outcomes is a top priority for them, and that a great university must be fully inclusive of talent and potential from all backgrounds. My message to them is clear: this is the moment to act on it."

Thursday, 28 February 2019

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