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Collaborative working

Should my institution collaborate with others to reach out to potential students?

Collaboration between institutions and other stakeholders (such as schools, colleges and communities) is an important element of delivering long-term outreach and high-quality, impartial higher education-related advice and guidance. Many universities and colleges already include investment in collaborative outreach activity in their access agreements and we strongly encourage you to do so wherever possible. The national strategy for access and student success identifies the benefits that collaborative outreach can deliver in terms of scale, engagement, co-ordination and impartiality. For example, collaborative activity around curricular choices can play a critical role in ensuring that young people are well informed when making their subject choices for GCSE and beyond. Collaboration also helps to increase coverage and avoid duplication. If your institution is highly selective, we strongly encourage you to explore how collaborative outreach might address the particular issues you face around subject choice and higher aspirations. Specific collaborative arrangements with other selective institutions may help you to ensure regional or national coverage. Highly selective institutions should also consider the recommendation in OFFA publication 2010/03, What more can be done to widen access to highly selective universities?, that you collectively employ peripatetic staff to supplement the academic/financial support and guidance available within schools and colleges, particularly in Years 9 and 11 when key subject choices are made.

My institution works with others/would like to start working with others. Can I include this in our access agreement?

Expenditure on collaboration

You may count your expenditure on collaborative outreach and related activity as part of your overall access agreement spend. This includes expenditure on set-up costs such as building the networks required to ensure the effectiveness of collaborative activity, as well as setting up monitoring and evaluation systems.

Setting collaborative targets

Collaborative targets can enable you to demonstrate the effectiveness of general aspiration-raising interventions, even where these do not directly translate into recruitment to your institution. For example, if you are partnering in outreach schemes with other regional higher education providers, you may wish to set a target on the number of students entering higher education following your activities at a regional or national level, not just at an institutional level. This target could then be included in the access agreements of all partner institutions. Targets should be evidence-based and you should build in ways to evaluate the impact of your activity over time.

What support is available for my institution in developing its collaborative outreach work?

National networks for collaborative outreach

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is funding the development of national networks for collaborative outreach (NNCOs), to support collaborative approaches to delivering outreach to all state-funded secondary schools and colleges, and a national tracking system called the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) for students involved in widening participation activity. This funding is not intended to destabilise existing networks, nor subsidise or substitute your current investment, which forms part of your access agreement spend. The funding for NNCOs can be used to enhance existing and planned activities, adding capacity and stability for the next two years. HEFCE’s website has further guidance about the HEAT and NNCOs (including answers to frequently asked questions about NNCOs).

If you would like to discuss any particular details of your access agreement commitments please contact OFFA.

Other support and guidance

The practitioner toolkit on partnerships, developed for HEFCE by the International Centre for Guidance Studies and The Progression Trust, offers practical advice on delivering collaborative outreach schemes.

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