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

Note to institutions following new BIS guidance

The Director of Fair Access, Sir Martin Harris, has now received a letter of guidance from ministers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, setting out the Government’s expectations in respect of fair access to higher education.

The letter introduces some significant changes to the access agreements that universities, colleges and SCITTs must submit to OFFA if they wish to charge more than the new basic fee of £6,000 in 2012-13.  In particular:

  • there will be a sharper focus on the outcomes of outreach and other access activities
  • access agreements will have to be submitted for approval on an annual basis
  • access agreements will cover part-time students as well as full-time students (subject to Parliamentary approval)
  • the minimum mandatory bursary will no longer be required, with lower income students being compensated by a promised increase in the maintenance grant
  • there will be an emphasis on collaborative working between universities and on the use of contextual data as a way of ensuring that bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the same opportunities as their more advantaged peers.

As set out in our guidance note of 21 January, we will also be asking for a stronger emphasis on well-targeted long-term outreach in future access agreements, with a smaller proportion of access agreement expenditure committed to bursaries and other financial support, particularly where such financial support is loosely targeted.

Producing access agreements

We are now drawing up guidance for universities, colleges and SCITTs setting out what your access agreements will need to cover if you wish to charge more than £6,000 in 2012-13.

The next steps are as follows:

  • we are currently consulting with sector bodies and will publish our guidance for institutions towards the end of February
  • if you wish to charge more than the basic fee of £6,000 you will need to submit your  access agreement to us in early to mid April
  • we will then assess access agreements and give universities our decision by early to mid July, so ensuring that 2012-13 applicants know the cost of individual courses including any institutional financial support available before they start to apply this autumn.

We will keep you updated on these timings by e-mail and via our website as they become clearer over the coming weeks.

Any questions?

If you have any enquiries please call us on 0117 931 7171 or email

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