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 the impact of institutional financial support on student success

Dear Colleague,

As part of research to understand the impact of institutional financial support on student success, OFFA commissioned a team to develop tools for universities and colleges to evaluate the impact of their own financial support. These tools aim to improve financial support evaluation methods within institutions and make the outputs of that evaluation more comparable across the sector. The tools include a set of survey and interview questions, along with guidance to implement an evaluative statistical data model developed by the team.

Update on progress

The final report (including survey and interview questions) and technical workbook guidance were published in December 2016. Many institutions who are keen to gain insight into the impact of their financial support are already using the guidance and tools to inform future provision.

We have identified an opportunity for HESA to provide an annual data return to subscribing institutions to include 15 of the 19 required variables for the data model. Though we anticipate that Higher Education Institutions will already have access to all of this data internally, the data return should make the model even easier for data analysts to use. HESA is currently preparing this data and we expect that this will be available to HEIs from May 2017. On receipt of the HESA data return, you will need to incorporate your students’ household income data and financial support arrangements before then using the data set within the statistical data model.

It is our aspiration in future that the data set provided by HESA will include Student Loans Company household income data to make the tools as simple as possible for you to use. We will keep you informed as this work progresses.  

Specific guidance for your 2018-19 access agreement

As stated in our strategic guidance for 2018-19, if you have committed significant resource to financial support, we require you to provide strong evidence in your access agreement of how your financial support will help to improve outcomes for under-represented and disadvantaged students. You must demonstrate that the methods by which you evaluate the impact of your financial support are appropriately robust and focused on impact in terms of demonstrable changes in behaviour (such as improved access, retention and attainment rates) rather than, for example, solely gathering reactions or opinions from students.

It is not our expectation that every institution will have completed evaluation of financial support using these tools by the access agreement deadline. We understand that undertaking robust evaluation and responding to findings takes time. If you are planning to use these methods in future please include this commitment in your access agreement.

Next steps

We will be updating our website with additional support for using the tools which will be ready for use in May 2017. Please contact if you have any feedback or further questions about using the guidance and tools.

Invitations will be sent soon for a number of training days we are organising to support institutions to use the data model. These will be led by Dr Neil Harrison (Senior Lecturer in Education, University of the West of England) who designed the data model.

Any questions?

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

Best wishes,