OfS lays out plans to ensure ‘choice not chance’ determines success – FE News

A new register of equal opportunities risks is among the consultation proposals, as the Office for Students (OfS) launches a consultation today on its new approach to regulating equal opportunities in education superior.

The new Equal Opportunities Risk Register, which will be regularly updated, will present sectoral risks to equal opportunities in higher education – which could include:

  1. Few disadvantaged students are admitted, especially to selective universities.
  2. Achievement gaps between different students in the school.
  3. Not enough non-traditional pathways in higher education, such as degree apprenticeships.

Universities and colleges will need to consider the registry when setting goals for their access and participation plans and providing information on how much they are investing in this work. Their strategies must be based on credible evidence and the OfS expects universities and colleges to significantly improve the volume and quality of assessments to build their understanding of what works. Higher education providers should also include an accessible summary as part of their plan and work more closely with schools to improve academic achievement to ensure equitable access to higher education.

The consultation will take place over the next five weeks, with input from schools, students and their representatives, and OfS-regulated universities and colleges.

This new approach follows the priorities of John Blake, Director of Equitable Access and Participation at the OfS, set out in February 2022, which included developing and improving higher education partnerships with schools; developing more diversified pathways throughout higher education; and ensuring access to higher education for students from underrepresented groups leads to successful participation in high-quality courses and good graduate outcomes.

John Blake said:

“Our priority remains to ensure that all students from all backgrounds are supported to access, succeed and progress in higher education. Higher education can improve social mobility, but it is too often assumed that quality must be sacrificed to improve equality. This must not be the case.

“Research shows that the achievement gap opens early in life. We believe that universities and colleges can benefit from working more closely with schools and charities to close the persistent participation and achievement gap between people from more advantaged backgrounds and their most disadvantaged peers.

“We want to see better assessment of access and engagement work across universities and colleges, and our new risk register will provide a framework to support industry-wide collaboration that highlights effective practices and identifies the necessary improvements. Our proposals aim to build on the progress already made and encourage collaboration between universities, colleges, schools and charities to identify and remove barriers throughout a student’s education to ensure that he can succeed in the path he has chosen. This regulation and greater sector coordination will help ensure that choice, not chance, determines who enters and succeeds in English higher education.

Subject to the results of the consultation, it is expected that the Equal Opportunity Risk Register will be launched in spring 2023 and the proposed changes that focus on access and participation plans will come into effect from from 2024-25.

Industry response

Skills Minister Andrea Jenkyns said:

“True social mobility is not just about getting students through the door; we want universities to reinvigorate their access and participation plans to improve outcomes, reduce dropout rates, and support students with high-quality courses.

“The journey to a successful future begins in classrooms, not on campuses, and everyone in education has a role to play. That’s why today’s consultation asks the sector how it can help all students – whatever their background – to progress through university and achieve high-quality degrees that lead to good career prospects. coming.

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Norma A. Roth