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

Assessing your performance on access, student success and progression

How to assess your own performance

Your access agreement must include a brief assessment of your performance across the student lifecycle, and should cover access, student success, and progression. This is a key part of the strategic approach that we want to see, and will help you to determine:

Five steps to tell us about your performance in your access agreement

Five steps: choose your measures, assess in absolute terms, adjust relative to performance, include info from monitoring and evaluation, provide evidence of impact

Step 1: Choose your measures

You should base your assessment on your own understanding of the measures and indicators that most accurately reflect your access, student success and progression performance. You may also wish to consider the proportion of students at your institution in receipt of full state support and your own measures of under-representation that may be reflected in your targets.

We recognise that there is no single ideal measure or indicator of performance and that you will want to take a balanced view of the information available to you.

However, you must base your assessment around broad categories of under-representation, e.g. measures around low participation neighbourhoods, socio-economic background, school type and performance, and national and institutional data on student success.

We encourage you to make use of your own data, as well as the wealth of data available in the sector, to help you shape and refine your strategy for access, student success and progression

In its End of Cycle Report 2016 UCAS highlighted the importance of considering multiple equality characteristics in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of under-representation and disadvantage in higher education.

To ensure you are targeting your activities across the student lifecycle at the students with the most need, we strongly encourage you to examine multiple characteristics of disadvantage in order to get a better understanding of under-representation and disadvantage and associated differential outcomes.

The Social Mobility Advisory Group recommends in Working in partnership: enabling social mobility in higher education (2016) that a basket of indicators, shared across the sector, should be used to measure disadvantage in applicants and students using both population-based and individual indicators.

Further education colleges may find it useful to refer to the Association of Colleges’ and Action on Access’ briefing on widening participation measures and indicators.

Step 2: Assess in absolute terms

You should first assess your access performance in absolute terms according to the proportion of students from under-represented groups that you recruit. This should include:

Step 3: Adjust relative to performance

Once you have determined roughly where you sit on these measures, you might adjust your position with reference to your relative performance. For example, relative performance could include whether you are significantly above or below the HESA benchmarks in relevant indicators.

To help us evaluate your access agreement, alongside your own assessment, we will consider your performance against the range of HESA’s WP and student retention performance indicators and benchmarks, and the proportion of lower income students you already attract. If you feel this approach is not applicable to your institution, please contact us to discuss your circumstances as early as possible.

Step 4: Include information from monitoring and evaluation

You will also need to include information you have collected through monitoring and evaluating your previous access activities.

Step 5: Provide evidence of impact

Where appropriate, please provide evidence of the impact your activities have had on your overall performance.

How we assess your performance

When we are considering your access agreement for approval, and during our annual monitoring of access agreement activity, we focus on outcomes rather than inputs: in other words, we want to see evidence of how your work is improving access, student success and progression, not just data on how much you are spending or how many schemes you are running.

As part of this, we will consider your progress against the targets you have set yourself. We will normally consider trends rather than single data points. We will also always take your collaborative efforts into account when assessing your progress in achieving the targets you have set yourself.

Related guidance

Setting your access agreement strategy

Evaluating your activities and expenditure

What happens if you do not make progress on access, success and/or progression

For more detailed information about how we monitor access agreement activity every year see our latest annual monitoring guidance.


Page last updated: 9 February 2017