New publication from OFFA: Understanding a whole institution approach to widening participation

Understanding a whole institution approach to widening participation ( commissioned by OFFA and authored by Professor Liz Thomas to improve understanding around how a whole-institution approach is understood, realised and sustained.

This research calls upon all those working in higher education – including senior leaders – to make fundamental and transformational changes in approaches to widening participation.

Through such collective effort, the persistent and complex challenges to ensuring that all those with the potential to potential to benefit from higher education have equal opportunity to do so, can.


The report includes evidence and case studies, plus implementation and evaluation guidance and tools to help develop whole institution approaches in your own contexts.


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


“Excellent progress has been made in widening access to higher education for the most disadvantaged young people. But for too long, this progress has only been incremental. We now need to see transformational change.


“Participation in higher education is a complex issue, and I have always said that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving fair access. I advocate the whole institution approach precisely because it is a way to recognise the complexity of the issues we face, and to tackle them on every front.


“I am very pleased to publish this work today, and hope to see every university and college making use of the tools Professor Thomas has developed to properly evaluate where they are – and how far they still have to go – on access and participation.”


Professor Liz Thomas said:


“It has long been recognised that a whole institution approach is the most effective way to increase access, improve success and promote the progression of students from non-traditional and under-represented backgrounds in higher education… This study has provided an important opportunity to explore how higher education providers are doing this in practice, develop our understanding of approaches that are working, and provide tools to guide institutions about what they need to do, and how to assess their progress towards this goal.”


For further information contact Richard Shiner (Head of Evidence and Effective Practice) at OFFA on 0117 931 7171 or email richard.shiner@offa.or

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