Writing for publication for widening participation practitioners

Project aims

This project sought to improve evaluation of widening participation practice in higher education by matching up practitioners with academic mentors.

It aimed to:

Why did we do this?

OFFA has asked institutions to take a ‘whole institutional approach’ to widening participation. One way to achieve this is through greater integration of practitioner led evaluations and academic evaluations of widening participation practice.

Through discussions with those involved in evaluating widening participation activity, we identified a desire among practitioners and academics for opportunities to add value to each other’s work. In particular, greater collaboration would allow practitioners to develop their skills in writing for publication, and academics to increase their understanding of practice outside of an academic lens.   

In our most recent access agreement guidance, we have asked institutions to take an increasingly evidence led approach, improving evaluation and monitoring to ensure they continue to accelerate the rate of progress towards meeting the Government’s social mobility goals. Disseminating effective practice is essential to allow widening participation teams to learn what works elsewhere, improving their own evaluation processes and increasing the impact of their access agreement activities.

Our access agreement guidance also encourages institutions to build communities of academics and practitioners, both within their own institution and across the sector by contributing to a shared understanding of effective practice. This project supported institutions to meet this challenge.

What happened?

One day writing event

A one day event took place on Wednesday 21 September 2016 in London for those interested in the scheme to explore some of the challenges in publishing research and evaluation. The day included practical writing activities, sharing of ideas for papers, and the opportunity to apply for places on the longer programme.

We also publicised the launch of the programme with a press release.

One year writing programme

A one year writing programme for widening participation practitioners took place in England between November 2016 and September 2017. We selected 18 writing projects from nearly 30 submissions, three of which have multiple authors. Twelve academics kindly agreed to give up their time as mentors, including both newer and more established academics with roles ranging from academic development to research, widening participation management and teaching. Mentors and mentees were carefully matched on the basis of subject focus, methodologies and type of paper.

Throughout the year, we held a series of workshops to support the programme in London, Sheffield and Bristol to support the practitioners’ writing. Workshops covered the process of producing and disseminating a research paper from start to finish, including writing and research techniques, abstracts, academic posters, literature reviews, methodology, presenting findings and submitting papers to journals. The programme in England was mirrored in Australia by the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Completed research projects

The following projects were completed in England:

Emerging findings event

On Wednesday 1 March, the participating practitioners presented posters showcasing their research projects in progress at an interactive event hosted by Sheffield Hallam University.

New findings from the sector conference

On Wednesday 13 September, the participating practitioners and academic mentors came together for a conference hosted by Sheffield Hallam University to present their research papers and take part in interactive writing and research workshops. Slides are available for the following presentations:

What will happen next?

It is our hope that a selection of the papers produced through this programme will be published in special issues of national and international peer reviewed widening participation journals.

Project team

This was a collaborative programme delivered by OFFA, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Newcastle, Australia.


Rae Tooth, Head of Strategy and Change, OFFA

Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, Head of Research, Sheffield Institute for Education, Sheffield Hallam University


Professor Penny Jane Burke, Director, Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, University of Newcastle, Australia

Vicky Ratcliff, Australian Government Department of Education

Want more information?

For further information about this project contact Rae Tooth, OFFA Head of Strategy and Change (0117 931 7171, rachael.tooth@offa.org.uk