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OFFA release guidance for 2018/19 Access Agreements

Thursday 09-02-2017 - 17:14

OFFA have released guidance for universities to improve chances for disadvantaged students in this year's round of Access Agreements

Any HE institution charging more than £6000 for their undergraduate courses is expected to complete an annual Access Agreement. Institutions must outline their plans for how they’ll support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access and succeed in university.

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) are responsible for approving and monitoring the plans and each year produce written guidance on the specific areas of work universities must focus on. Today OFFA released guidance on Access Agreements for the 2018/19 academic year, which universities must complete by 26th April.

A key change for this year is that universities will be expected to deliver more substantial outreach work in schools. This builds on the Government’s plans for the delivery of schooling provision announced at the end of last year, including having universities sponsor schools or set up their own free schools. The guidance also identifies key target groups which this year include disabled students and young males from working class backgrounds.

Sorana Vieru, Vice President Higher Education commented: “It’s great to see that OFFA are asking institutions to deliver more for disabled students, particularly in light of cuts to DSA and current shortcomings in mental health support. We are concerned about the decision to increase resource specifically towards recruiting white males from low economic backgrounds, which is conflating the issues of class and gender and detracting from the important issue of under-representation which needs to be solved more holistically. We’ll support students’ unions to start a conversation about class and its role in determining young people’s ability to access and thrive within higher education.”

Between now and April we’ll be supporting students’ unions to collaborate with their institutions to write a plan that best reflects the needs of current and potential learners.  Next week we’ll be releasing a resources to help you figure out what OFFA’s guidance means for your union.

Here’s what you can do until then:

  • Identify who is responsible for drafting the agreement, this person will likely be named in your institution’s latest access agreement. You institution is likely to have a Widening Participation Working Group and Senior Management Oversight Group or similar that will work on
  • Access agreements rarely change drastically year on year. Take a look at your institution’s most recent Access Agreement and start to identify area of interest to the union.
  • Take a look at OFFA’s guidance released today. Think about what areas you might want your institution to commit to in each area.
  • Read our factsheet to learn more about working on your Access Agreement.
     

For further details email holly.staynor@nus.org.uk

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