The Office for Fair Access closed at the end of 31 March 2018 and responsibility for higher education access regulation transferred to the Office for Students

Understanding effective approaches to part-time provision


This project aims to advance the understanding of effective part-time provision for under-represented and disadvantaged students.

Why do we need to do this?

Evidence shows that, as a whole, part-time higher education provision plays a significant role in widening participation for students from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds and part-time students are more likely to be from these backgrounds.

Part-time study has sharply declined in recent years and this trend is continuing. As part-time students are more likely than others to be from under-represented groups, this has serious implications for fair access to higher education. There are also national concerns, such as skills shortages, that are not likely to be adequately addressed while individuals in work and/or a caring role are not accessing part-time higher education to gain appropriate (re)training and qualifications.

Research and discussion around the decline in part-time study has so far largely focused on systemic economic factors, and understanding other external variables that have led to the decline. However, the decline is not a uniform or universal trend across the sector and some institutions are not experiencing the same high levels of reduction in part-time student numbers.

The outcomes of this project will be available to inform strategy and guidance in this area.

What has happened so far?

In October 2017, OFFA commissioned a research team led by Lindsey Bowes at CFE Research to investigate how part-time provision can successfully support disadvantaged and under-represented students to access and succeed in higher education.

What is happening now?

The team is using existing national-level data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and OFFA-approved access agreements and collecting new data (through surveys and case studies) to understand:

HESA has published a blog with further information about the project.

Project team

Principal Investigator

Lindsey Bowes, Research Director, CFE Research

Delivery team

Jenny Bermingham, Senior Statistical Analyst, HESA

Dr Guy Birkin, CFE Senior Research Executive, CFE

Matt Clarke, Analytical Solutions Specialist, HESA

Dr Suzie Dent, Head of Analysis, HESA

Rachel Moreton, Associate Director, CFE

Tej Nathwani, Senior Statistical Analyst, HESA

Dr Sarah Tazzyman, Research Manager CFE

What will happen next?

After OFFA closes on 31 March 2018, this project will transfer to the Office for Students which will publish a report detailing the team’s findings. 

Want more information?

Contact Kimberley Wooster, Evidence and Effective Practice Adviser (0117 931 7446, or Richard Shiner, Head of Evidence and Effective Practice (0117 931 7171,