Information for:

Call for evidence: impact of financial support

Request for research and evaluation into the impact of financial support on students in higher education

The closing date for this call for evidence has now passed

This call asks for research, evaluation and other evidence about the impact of financial support on access, student experience, retention and completion or outcomes beyond the first degree. It has two parts:

  1. A call requesting higher education institutions and further education colleges with access agreements to submit their research and evaluation into the impact of financial support on their undergraduate students to OFFA. The findings from this review will allow OFFA, and the sector, to understand the broader national picture alongside the approach and findings from institutions (including the scope, nature and process of the evaluation). 
  2. A call for potential contributions to a conference organised by Universities UK and partners to examine how financial aid can support access to higher education and the broader student experience for students from widening participation target groups. 

About the research

In March 2014 OFFA published An interim report: Do bursaries have an effect on retention rates (OFFA publication 2014/02). The report concluded that there was no evidence that institutional bursary schemes in operation between 2006-07 and 2010-11 had an observable effect on the continuation rates of young full-time first-degree students. The analysis did not seek to understand the role that institutional bursaries play in the post-2012 system of student fees nor did it take into account institutional diversity and the wider impact on the student experience.

Further to the interim report, and in response to sector feedback, OFFA now wishes to commission additional research into the impact of financial support on access to higher education and the student experience.

OFFA has commissioned an external consultant (Nursaw Associates) to oversee this research.

The first phase is to undertake a review of the research into the impact of financial support on the experience of students within higher education study. This includes institutional reviews and evaluation alongside peer-reviewed and published research, allowing OFFA, and the sector, to build an understanding of the broader national picture.

The review will inform the second phase in which the project team will commission new research to further investigate financial support at an institutional level in partnership with the sector, examining the impact of financial support across the student lifecycle and the wider student experience. This will be subject to a call for participation next calendar year.

Jump to instructions on submitting evidence to the call for research

About the conference

‘How does student financial support contribute to widening access and improving student retention and success?’

This one day conference on 11 March 2015  is being organised by Universities UK with CFE Research, Edge Hill University and OFFA. The conference will draw together UK and international evidence to address the following questions:

This conference will examine both international and UK experience, and be used to inform the sector’s approach. We are keen to ensure that the conference represents the findings within the sector and wish to encourage a wide range of contributions.

Jump to instructions on submitting evidence to the conference

How to respond to this call for evidence


We wish to receive copies of research and evaluation reports and other evidence which focus on the effect of financial support in student access (this includes admissions and outreach) and more broadly on the student experience (including continuation, student success and wellbeing) and outcomes beyond undergraduate education (including employment and postgraduate study). This project offers an expansive look at how financial support impacts upon student lives.

We are interested in financial support for undergraduate students, whether they are full-time or part-time. Postgraduate students are beyond the scope of this research, but will be included in the conference.

We would be interested to see research and evaluation on financial support schemes that may be outside of the access agreement but nevertheless support widening participation, for example, those funded by philanthropic donations.

We wish to see your full reviews and evaluation material. Abstracts on their own, whilst of interest, do not allow us to understand the nature of the research, but are of interest to the conference.

We are interested in what works and what did not. The information you submit for the research will not form part of OFFA’s access agreement monitoring function and will be entirely confidential between you and the consultant. It will not be made available to OFFA. OFFA will receive an overview report, which will not detail individual institutions.

If you wish your research and evaluation to be considered for the conference please indicate clearly in your covering email. This information will then be passed onto the conference organisers who will contact you directly. Please note that this will not be subject to the confidentiality clauses under which the research will operate. Alternatively, please send an abstract directly to the conference organisers as detailed below.

How to submit your research

Please send your research and evaluation reports directly to our external consultant, Ceri Nursaw, at, by midday on Friday 12 December 2014. If you have any queries please also direct them to this email address.

What happens after you have submitted your research

After considering the responses:

We will publish the first phase report in early next year. The final report will be published later in 2015.

Conference organisers may be in touch regarding your contribution to the conference.

The consultant will read, record and analyse the views of every response to this call in a consistent way. They will be entirely confidential to the consultant and will not be made available to OFFA. Only information from institutions that have indicated they wish to be considered for the conference will be passed onto the conference organisers.

We will publish an analysis of the responses received by the consultant. This will be anonymous to the institution.

Freedom of Information

Information provided in response to this call for evidence may be made public, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act or of an appropriate licence, or through another arrangement. Such information includes text, data and data sets. The Freedom of Information Act gives a public right of access to any information held by a public authority defined within the Act, in this case OFFA. It applies to information provided by individuals and organisations, for example universities and colleges. OFFA can refuse to make such information available in exceptional circumstances, particularly where there is a need for it to be treated as confidential or it is commercially sensitive. Further information about the Act is available at


The conference is accepting abstract proposals for papers and posters. Each paper presenter will have 15 minutes to present, followed by questions or a short discussion. Posters will be displayed throughout the day, and there will be a poster walk, when posters are presented and questions answered.

Papers should report research findings, or evidence or similar about the ways in which financial support contributes to widening access and/or improving student retention and success across the student lifecycle.

Posters should be A0 in size (portrait layout) and present summary information about your work in a visual or text format in a way that is of interest to the conference participants. Posters will be displayed throughout the conference, and you will be asked to talk about your poster during the poster walk.

How to submit your abstract

Abstracts should be 200 words and include the following information:

Please send your abstracts to by Wednesday 24 December 2014 (this is an extension to the originally published deadline).

There is further information on the Universities UK website.

What happens after you submit your abstract

All abstracts will be reviewed and judged on relevance, clarity, rigour and overall fit with the aims of the conference. The key contact will be informed of the outcome by 16 January 2015.