Russell Group response to OfS access and participation consultation

14 November 2022

Universities must be given the freedom to improve access to higher education in a way that works for local communities and responds to national challenges, the Russell Group has said today (14 November).

In its response to the Office for Students’ (OfS) consultation on a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity in English Higher Education, the Russell Group has welcomed the proposed move to an approach centred on risks to inequality as it should enable providers to continue taking flexible, varied approaches in response to local and national challenges.

Other proposals such as the enhanced focus on evaluation activities and the chance for a more nuanced and provider-led approach to interpreting progress are also positive steps.

However, a more flexible approach is needed to help universities build on the progress that has been made to date to improve access, with a 34% increase in the number of disadvantaged students at Russell Group universities over the last 5 years.

Russell Group universities also ensure students from underrepresented backgrounds are supported to succeed once they get to university. The priority given to this is reflected in the high levels of continuation rates and future earnings for underrepresented students attending our universities. The new regulatory approach should support institutions in making further progress.

Commenting, Chantel Le Carpentier, Policy Analyst at the Russell Group, said:

“Our members will continue to build on existing work with schools and colleges – offering outreach, training and even running academy trusts – to help drive up attainment as well as providing outreach and transition support to ensure under-represented students can succeed on campus. However, universities cannot tackle inequality alone, so it is vital there is a joined-up approach across the system to boost attainment and address disadvantage.

“As the new approach is rolled out, we would urge the OfS to ensure that reporting, monitoring and evaluation requirements are genuinely proportionate and light touch, so that universities can focus their resources on supporting attainment and boosting access and participation. The sector would also benefit from stability in access and participation regulation, so universities can have the confidence to implement plans over the long-term.”

You can read the Russell Group’s response to the consultation in full below.

Russell Group response to consultation on a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity in English Higher Education


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