The Office for Fair Access closed at the end of 31 March 2018 and responsibility for higher education access regulation transferred to the Office for Students

Review shows that OFFA’s approach to evidence has driven change in access

The Office for Fair Access’s approach to research and evidence has been successful in helping universities and colleges to improve higher education access and participation by working in more effective ways, an impact review published today has found.

The review, conducted by the consultancy Nursaw Associates as OFFA prepares to close at the end of this month [note 1], investigated how far OFFA’s Evidence and Effective Practice activities have met its objective to ‘support and challenge the sector to continually improve outcomes through the generation of and learning from robust evaluation, research and analysis’.

It determined that the higher education sector considers the research produced and commissioned by OFFA as

  • highly valuable
  • credible
  • robust

and that support for the sector to develop good practice is seen as critical to securing further progress in access and participation.

The research included surveys and interviews with staff from universities, colleges and third sector organisations, and analysis of access agreements.

Commenting, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

“I am pleased that the review found that our support and challenge to universities and colleges have improved their ways of working.

“We have made research and evidence a priority and this has contributed to the progress we have seen in access. We have helped universities and colleges understand better which approaches are likely to have the greatest impact in their own specific context.

“The sector’s approach to access agreements has changed significantly over OFFA’s lifetime, with much greater attention now paid to strategy, evaluation and outcomes. This has been supported by OFFA’s increasing focus on evidence, starting under the leadership of my predecessor Sir Martin Harris and growing exponentially once I established a specific Evidence and Effective Practice function in 2014.

“I am very encouraged by the guidance the Office for Students (OfS) has published on access and participation, which makes clear that it has taken on board what OFFA has learned about evidence-led approaches to access regulation, and the need to understand in order to effectively challenge. With greater resources and new powers, there is a real opportunity for the OfS to use evidence and research to support the transformational change that students deserve.”


For further information contact Aislinn Keogh (Press and Communications Adviser) at OFFA on 0117 931 7173 or

Notes to editors

  1. The Office for Students (OfS) is a new public body that will combine the existing regulatory functions of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) with many of the current functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The OfS will take up these duties from April 2018, at which time OFFA and HEFCE will cease to operate.