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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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This document invites consortia to email proposals to HEFCE by noon on Friday 1 July 2016.

Executive summary


1. This document invites consortia of universities, further education colleges, private higher education (HE) providers, sixth form colleges, schools, charities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities and other local partners to submit proposals to run programmes of collaborative outreach in specific, local areas where higher education participation is low overall and lower than would be expected given GCSE (KS4) attainment rates. Proposals will be accepted from existing consortia as well as new partnerships brought together for this programme.

2. Throughout April and May 2016, HEFCE will hold a series of meetings across England to discuss the programme with prospective consortia. We encourage all those considering submitting a proposal to the programme to attend one of these meetings. The events will provide an opportunity for potential consortia to gain further clarity around the expectations of the programme, how the programme aligns with the work institutions have set out in their access agreements and to raise issues and queries with both HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in relation to the programme. Further information about the meetings will be posted on the HEFCE website by the end of March.

Key points

3. The Government has set challenging goals to double the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and increase by 20 per cent the number of students from ethnic minority groups in higher education by 2020. In addition, it has highlighted concerns about the continuing gap in HE participation rates between men and women, with particular reference to boys from disadvantaged backgrounds.

4. In order to support the Government’s ambitions to make faster progress nationally to widen access to HE, we are establishing a national collaborative outreach programme to run from academic year 2016-17. This will have the express purpose of boosting young HE participation rates in our most disadvantaged areas in England. The programme will seek to achieve this by focusing activity in those areas where HEFCE’s analysis has shown participation in HE to be particularly low overall, and lower than would be expected given the KS4 attainment levels in those areas. In doing so, the programme will complement existing investment by institutions and Government in broader outreach which supports learners from their early school years as well as older learners into successful participation in HE.

5. We wish to commission consortia of HE providers, schools, colleges and other organisations to undertake intensive programmes of outreach activity in geographical areas where the HE participation of young people1 is low and much lower than expected, based on GCSE level attainment.

6. In order to make the rapid progress required to increase access to HE to the level needed to achieve the Government’s goals, the successful consortia will need to focus their work on the older age groups in schools and colleges. This means targeting activity primarily at Key Stage 4 and 5 learners from Years 9 through to 13.

7. The programme will run from 2016-17 to 2019-20. HEFCE will provide £30 million in 2016-17 to establish the consortia and commence delivery of activity. From 2017-18, funding for the programme will be set at £60 million per annum. Given the time necessary during 2016 to develop and approve proposals and for successful consortia to establish their infrastructure, we expect the delivery of outreach activity to commence in January 2017. The programme will therefore run in calendar years.

8. Funding will be provided for two years in the first instance, from January 2017 to December 2018. Funding for a further two years, to December 2020 will be subject to consortia making satisfactory progress towards meeting the Government’s goals.

9. In 2016-17, all institutions will continue to receive a widening access allocation from HEFCE, which will total £54 million2. They will also continue to receive an allocation (totalling £279 million3) to improve student success among at risk students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We are due to consult on our approach to teaching funding in late spring, and will detail our proposals for the institutional widening access allocation from 2017-18 in that document.

10. HEFCE and OFFA are concerned to ensure that the national collaborative outreach programme adds value to existing, long-term, progressive outreach activity already delivered by institutions. Consortia must therefore demonstrate how the proposed approaches for the programme align with and complement existing activity, particularly outreach funded through their access agreement commitments. It will be important to articulate, as part of this, the way in which the consortia partners will ensure that their individual capacity to continue their current outreach programmes will be maintained.

11. The national collaborative outreach programme is intended rapidly to address the Government’s ambitions in terms of progression to higher education by students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We will, therefore, rigorously monitor on an annual basis the targets and milestones agreed through a consortium’s funding agreement, which will be based on our analysis of the progress needed in different local areas.

12. To avoid changes in targeting and so that consortia can work systematically with schools and colleges in the target areas, during the life of the programme we will not change the data which underpins the funding allocations and the wards to be targeted.

13. The proposals will be assessed by an external, expert panel. The panel will be responsible for making recommendations to the HEFCE Board with regard to the consortia to be funded on the basis of quality of the proposals put forward and the likely achievement of the stated outcomes.

Action required

14. Consortia should submit their proposals to HEFCE by noon on Friday 1 July 2016. Submissions should be sent to

1  HEFCE measures young participation in HE by looking at the proportion of the cohort that enters HE at both age 18 and 19 years old. This differs from UCAS which captures those entering at age 18 only.

3  As is our normal practice, £3 million will be held back to be allocated after any changes to funding required following amendments to the underlying data.

Date: 23 March 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/06

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Widening participation, Finance, Planning, Learning and teaching

Enquiries should be directed to:

Sam Dyer, tel 0117 931 7410 or Clair Murphy, tel 0117 931 7138, email