The Office for Fair Access has asked NUS to gather students' unions views on the process by which institutions created their 2012 access agreements.
OFFA guidance to institutions in 2011 advised consultation with students' unions, but we know in some cases this did not happen, or happen properly.
We have created a short template to help you to scrutinise and comment on the process by which students were consulted in the creation of the access agreement and the content of the agreement. This will give you the starting point to engage with the process of campaigning for improvements in 2012.
We are also consulting students' unions on how we can lobby for more robust inclusion of the student view in access agreements - we want to hear your views on how we can ensure you are properly and appropriately consulted in 2012.
Top tips for how to approach scrutinising your access agreement
Gather a few different staff and officers in the union and ensure everyone has a copy of the access agreement and the consultation template.
Access agreements are publicly available on the OFFA website.
Have a short initial meeting and determine what you know already and what questions you have. For example, you might need to find out what the consultation process looked like, or investigate some of the content of the agreement further. Depending on your relationship with your institution you might be able to approach them to clarify some part of the content that is not clear to you, for example, why was one type of expenditure prioritised more than another, or what else is going on that is not mentioned in the access agreement.
Determine what you do not know, and what you cannot reasonably find out in the time available - this is all useful information and you should add it to your response. One example of something you cannot know at this stage is the impact of fee increases, as the admissions cycle for 2012 is still going on.
Assign responsibility for finding out the answer to the questions you feel are the most important, and fix a date by which you need the answers.
If you are unsure about anything you can always contact NUS for advice
Have a final meeting to bring together the information you have gathered and discuss what your answers will be to the consultation.
Assign someone to write up answers and seek final comments from everyone involved.
Return the consultation to NUS by 16 December 2011 to give us time to feed back to OFFA.
Other documentation that may help you
NUS access briefing tracking the access debate throughout 2011 and sector responses to the parts of the HE White Paper that deal with access to higher education (November 2011)
NUS guidance to unions about the creation of the 2012 access agreement (February 2011)