“Everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education should have equal opportunity to participate and succeed, on a course and in an institution that best fit their potential, needs and ambitions” – the National Strategy for Access and Student Success
Who we are
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is the independent public body that regulates fair access to higher education in England. We promote and safeguard fair access to higher education for people from lower income and other under-represented backgrounds.
What we do
We make sure that universities and colleges that charge higher tuition fees have adequate measures in place to attract disadvantaged students, and to support them during their studies and as they prepare to move on to work or further study.
The main way we do this is by approving and monitoring access agreements – documents in which universities and colleges set out their tuition fees and how they plan to improve/sustain access, e.g. outreach work such as summer schools or financial support such as bursaries. All publicly funded universities and colleges in England must have an access agreement approved by OFFA in order to be allowed to charge higher tuition fees.
We then monitor whether the universities and colleges are meeting their access agreement commitments, and improving access, on an annual basis. If they break the agreement they have made with us, we can fine them, or limit the level of fee that they can charge.
We also help to improve and share the evidence base about what methods are known to work best. And we work to keep fair access issues high on the public agenda, so that policy-makers understand why fair access is in all our interests and how it contributes to social mobility.
The main way OFFA has impact is by encouraging and supporting change through access agreements. Click here to read about the impact of access agreements
We have helped to ensure that the introduction of higher fees in 2006-07 has not had a detrimental effect on participation of students from low income and other under-represented groups. Our challenge and support has led to stronger, more effective access work in universities and colleges. And we have supported significant improvements in access and support for under-represented groups. More details about our impact
How our work fits within the wider picture
OFFA’s work contributes to the national strategy for access and student success which we and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) developed in response to a request from Ministers.
We are part of the Regulatory Partnership Group, which advises the Government and other national agencies on funding and regulatory arrangements for higher education in England.