Writing for publication for widening participation practitioners

Project aims

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

It aims to:

Why are we doing 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 have 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 will support institutions to meet this challenge.

What has happened so far?

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.

Emerging findings event

On Wednesday 1 March, the practitioners participating in the programme presented posters showcasing the projects they are writing up at an event hosted by Sheffield Hallam University. The session was interactive and the presenters welcomed questions and discussion to help refine their projects. 

What is happening now?

One year writing programme

A one year writing programme for widening participation practitioners is now taking place in England. We have selected 18 writing projects from nearly 30 submissions, three of which have multiple authors. Twelve academics have kindly agreed to give up their time as mentors. These include both newer and more established academics, and their roles range from academic development to research, widening participation management and teaching. We have carefully matched mentors and mentees on the basis of subject focus, methodologies and type of paper.

The mentors are now working with their project participants. We will be holding a series of workshops to support the programme in London, Sheffield and Bristol between November 2016 to October 2017. The programme in England is being mirrored in Australia by the University of Newcastle, Australia.

A selection of the papers produced through this programme will be published in special issues of national and international peer reviewed widening participation journals, and more will be presented at conferences hosted in both England and Australia.

Workshops will cover 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.

Research in progress

The following projects are currently underway in England:


Project team

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


Rachael 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 Rachael Tooth, OFFA Head of Strategy and Change (0117 931 7171, rachael.tooth@offa.org.uk