Understanding a whole institution approach to widening participation


This project will improve understanding of what a successful ‘whole institution approach’ to widening participation looks like. It aims to:

The overall goal of this project is to improve the evidence base around how a whole-institution approach is understood, realised and sustained in different contexts, so that universities and colleges can develop and implement effective ways to maximise the potential benefit of their widening participation work.

Why do we need to do this?

In recent years, OFFA’s guidance has encouraged universities and colleges to take a whole-institution approach in their access agreements. We have also challenged them to take an increasingly evidence-led approach to improving their performance, and committed to support that by working collaboratively with the sector to enhance our policies and guidance. This project is part of that commitment. Refining our understanding of a whole-institution approach will enable us to provide more consistent support.

What is happening now?

Literature review and case study analysis

In January 2017, OFFA published an invitation to tender for a literature review and case study analysis. In February 2017, we commissioned Professor Liz Thomas of Liz Thomas Associates to take this work forward.  

Professor Thomas will review national and international research and policy from the past decade, and analyse a small selection of case studies from across the English higher education sector to establish what practices currently exist in different institutional contexts. From this, she will identify the best ways that institutions can evidence their approaches in this area.

Project team

Principle Investigator

Professor Liz Thomas, Director, Liz Thomas Associates Ltd.

Project Manager

Julie Frost, Senior Project Manager, Bedrock Associates Ltd.

What will happen next?

At the end of this project we will publish:

Want more information?

Contact Richard Shiner, OFFA Head of Evidence and Effective Practice on 0117 931 7171 or email richard.shiner@offa.org.uk