Reach out and touch them

September 1, 2011

Following your article on the Higher Education Policy Institute's analysis of the higher education White Paper ("Elaborate, ineffectual and unfair: the White Paper takes a beating", 18 August), I would like to make it clear that the Office for Fair Access does not have a "heavy focus on financial support".

It is understandable that, for 2012-13, institutions have chosen to increase financial support at the same time as increasing their fees. However, in line with our guidance, the actual proportion of access-agreement expenditure committed to such support is falling while that committed to outreach and retention is steadily increasing.

Universities and colleges estimate that by 2015-16, outreach spend under access agreements will double to more than £100 million a year, while investment in retention and student success (a new area for access agreements from 2012-13) will reach £80 million a year.

It is critically important that the current focus of the debate on fees and financial support does not deflect attention from the continued need to invest in and build on the successful outreach and retention activity that is so crucial to widening participation and fair access.

Sir Graeme Davies, Director of fair access to higher education, Office for Fair Access

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