Introducing access agreements
What is an access agreement?
Access agreements set out how institutions will sustain or improve access and student success, which includes retention, attainment and employability. An access agreement must set out:
- your proposed tuition fee limits
- the access and student success measures you intend to put in place
- how much these measures will cost
- your targets and milestones
- how you are going to tell students about the financial support you are offering.
Who has to have an access agreement?
From 2012-13, you need to have an OFFA-approved access agreement if you:
- provide undergraduate higher education courses and/or those postgraduate courses, such as PGCEs, that are subject to regulated fees, and
- are directly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England or the Teaching Agency and
- are subject to a ‘condition of grant’ under Section 24 of the Higher Education Act 2004 and
- wish to charge home/EU students more than the basic fee for fee-regulated courses (see our fee and bursary table for current fee levels/caps ).
You will need an access agreement if you propose to charge any fees above these levels, even if only for one student on one course.
For more information, see OFFA publication 2013/01, How to produce an access agreement for 2014-15.
The minimum bursary requirement
If you are charging tuition fees near to or at the maximum level to students who started in 2011-12 or before, you must give a minimum bursary to any of these students who are England-domiciled and receiving the full Maintenance Grant or Special Support Grant. This also applies students repeating a year. The minimum bursary for students receiving the full Maintenance Grant is 10 per cent of the maximum fee. So, if you’re charging the 2011-12 maximum fee of £3,375, the minimum bursary will be £338.
From 2012-13, following the increase in state maintenance grants, there is no minimum bursary for new students, but the requirement remains for continuing students.
How much do you need to spend under your access agreement?
Our guidance (OFFA publication 2013/01) sets out broad guidelines on expenditure levels. It makes clear that we will expect significantly more from institutions with low proportions of students from under-represented groups. If we have any concerns about the level of investment proposed in your draft access agreement, we will discuss this with you before we enter the formal decision making procedure.
How long do access agreements last?
Pre 2012-13 access agreements can cover a period of up to five years. Access agreements for 2012-13 and subsequent years are subject to annual review.