Support: money well spent

July 21, 2016

The director of fair access to higher education, Les Ebdon, is right to highlight the fact that not enough evaluation is carried out into the effectiveness of the money that institutions spend on financial support (“Spending £50m on access without evaluation ‘not acceptable’”, News, 14 July). That is why a group of five universities, led by Sheffield Hallam University and including the University of the West of England, the University of Oxford, King’s College London and the University of Bedfordshire, have been developing evaluative tools that can be used across the sector and are currently being piloted at another four institutions.

The principal method is a tracking mechanism using student data held by institutions. The evidence we have already gathered suggests that where there are differential outcomes in relation to retention, completion, achievement of a “good” degree (2:1 or a first) and graduate employment outcomes, those that receive financial support do at least as well as those from household income backgrounds that are just above the cut-off for eligibility and those from “average” family income backgrounds. In other words, receipt of financial support closes the gap between poorer students and their better-off peers.

The Office for Fair Access has funded this research with the intention that all institutions will be required to use these tools to evaluate the effectiveness of their support packages in access agreement reporting. Where this support isn’t shown to be working, support packages can be refocused, or the income can be redirected to outreach work. One problem, correctly identified in the recent Offa report (14 July), is that many institutions are not evaluating either their financial support or outreach work; other evidence suggests that where institutions are evaluating access spend, this isn’t being done in a coherent or comparable manner sufficient to produce an evidence base. The adoption of common, sectorrelevant tools and evaluation methodologies can only help us all to understand the best and most appropriate ways to not only attract talented individuals into higher education but also to make sure they are supported throughout their studies.

Colin McCaig
Sheffield Hallam University


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Related universities

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in Innovation and Enterprise UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE
Senior Lecturer in Project Management UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE
Research Fellow UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE
Head of Student Systems and Records YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Microlight pilot flies with flock of cranes

Reports of UK-based researchers already thinking of moving overseas after Brexit vote

Portrait montage of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage

From Donald Trump to Brexit, John Morgan considers the challenges of a new international political climate