OfS access consultation

07 September 2018

Responding to the publication of the OfS consultation on access and participation regulation, Russell Group Chief Executive Dr Tim Bradshaw said:

“This consultation is an important step in ensuring a more strategic and joined-up approach and, throughout this process, our watchwords should be ambition and partnership. Significant progress on access and participation has been made in recent years, and we are determined that higher education should be open to any individual who has the desire and ability to attend university.

“The Russell Group has been working with the OfS to help develop proposals which can have the biggest impact. This includes the introduction of longer-term cycles, with robust annual monitoring. This will encourage universities to develop their work with schools, and more widely in the community, to widen the pool of disadvantaged pupils with good grades, rather than competing with each other on recruitment to meet short-term targets.

“We also very much welcome the emphasis on evidence and evaluation. There is a great deal of activity to improve access taking place across the sector but what we need now is a clear overview of which interventions make the biggest difference. We need to be clearer on what works, and what doesn’t, if we are to shift the dial.”

Notes to editors

In August the Russell Group submitted a five-point plan to the OfS to inform the design of the consultation and will respond to the document published today. The plan is available here.

Russell Group data on widening participation:

  • between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the number of students eligible for free school meals at Russell Group universities more than doubled (increasing by 170% from 910 in 2010/11 to 2,455 in 2015/16)
  • nearly 8 out of 10 young people at Russell Group universities studying for a full-time first degree now come from a state school background.
  • the number of UK students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds accepted to study at Russell Group universities has steadily increased in recent years, rising from 23,105 in 2007/08 to 34,850 in 2016/17 –an increase of 51%.
  • the gap in drop-out rates between young students from low participation neighbourhoods and others is smaller at Russell Group universities than for the sector as a whole (1.1 percentage points vs. 2.2 percentage points)
  • whilst there remains an attainment gap between BME and white students which our institutions are seeking to address, it is significantly smaller than at other HEIs (5 percentage points at Russell Group universities vs. 12 percentage points at other HEIs) and the gap is closing over time. This gap is based on students earning a 1st, 2:1 or medical or dental degree (which do not use the standard degree classification grades)

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