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New national outreach programme for students from disadvantaged backgrounds

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A new four-year outreach programme will help meet the Prime Minister’s challenging goal to double the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020.

To make faster progress nationally to widen access to higher education (HE), HEFCE is funding a national collaborative outreach programme to run from academic year 2016-17. Funded at £30 million in the first year of operation and £60 million thereafter, the programme will have the express purpose of boosting young HE participation rates in the most disadvantaged areas in England.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

‘We’re seeing record application rates to our universities but too many students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds still miss out. This important outreach programme will support universities to widen access by building partnerships with local schools and help young people reach their full potential.’

Guidance has been issued to invite proposals from consortia which will come together to deliver highly focused outreach. The programme will deliver activity where HEFCE’s analysis shows that participation in HE is particularly low overall, and lower than expected given the Key Stage 4 attainment levels in those areas. Consortia will deliver a suite of outreach activity which will support and encourage young people in school years 9 to 13 to consider HE a viable choice in meeting their ambitions.

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said:

‘We are keen to support the Prime Minister’s goal and the National Collaborative Outreach Programme offers a new way of focusing outreach geographically where our analysis shows rapid progress can be made.

‘We look forward to working with higher education providers to bring together consortia to realise this programme. We know from other programmes, most recently the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach, that institutions can bring an active and imaginative approach to outreach delivered through collaboration. The new programme will enable consortia to deliver an exciting range of activity to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their talents and ambitions.’

Working with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), HEFCE will ensure that the programme complements the existing investment by institutions and Government in widening participation, which supports young learners from their early school years, and older learners, to participate successfully in HE. It follows the Government’s recent grant letter to HEFCE and guidance letter to OFFA, which called for more university-led outreach to disadvantaged areas.

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