How to prepare and submit your access agreement: step by step guide

This section sets out step by step guidance for higher education institutions and further education colleges on how to prepare and submit an access agreement.

It includes links to our more detailed guidance about our expectations, what we consider to be good practice, what you may and may not include, and other useful resources to support you in preparing your access agreement. Even if you have produced an access agreement before, we strongly suggest you follow this guidance to ensure you provide everything we need and thus minimise delays due to negotiation and revision before approval.

Step 1: Before you start

If you are unsure whether you need an access agreement, click here

Before preparing your access agreement you must read the annual strategic guidance for the relevant year. It contains essential information about what we expect to see in access agreements for that specific year and if you do not read this annual guidance, it is likely that your access agreement will not include everything it needs for approval.

We strongly recommend you also read our guidance on what we consider good practice in your access agreement.

Step 2: Structure and format

Access agreements are published documents serving a statutory function, and should set out the required information and supporting context as clearly and concisely as possible.

There are two parts to your access agreement: a free-text MS Word document, and a resource plan created using a pre-prepared MS Excel template.

Suggested structure of the MS Word document

It is up to you how you present your free-text Word document. But we encourage you to set it out in the following order to make it easier for interested parties to navigate and compare agreements:

There is no set length or size for an access agreement and they vary in length from only a few pages long to 15-20 pages, depending on factors such as: the scale of activity proposed; the size of the institution; how far the institution has to go on access, success and progression; how much variation there is between courses; and the number of targets.

Where to find your resource plan template

You can download the MS Excel resource plan template for your institution from the HEFCE extranet. Click here for instructions on using the extranet

Step 3: What your access agreement should contain

Access agreements vary between institutions. Within our guidelines, it is up to you to decide the precise level of expenditure in your access agreement, and how and where you invest it to have the greatest impact. Each access agreement will be informed by the circumstances of your institution, and the characteristics and needs of your students. For example:

However, while we recognise and welcome different approaches, we do require some specific information in order to assess your agreement. This is listed below. You may find it helpful to print this and use it as a checklist to ensure you include everything we need.

Fees, student numbers and fee income

Your access agreement must include:

This information is also required in the resource plan. Please ensure that the fees, student numbers and higher fee income reported in your resource plan are consistent with the information in the text document of your access agreement.

Related guidance

How to tell us about your fees and student numbers

What to do if you want to increase fees

Fees and student finance: minimums, maximums and thresholds

Your access, student success and progression measures

Your access agreement must include:

Related guidance

Assessing your performance on access, success and progression

Setting your access agreement strategy

How much should you invest?

What should you invest in?

Choosing your access activities

Target groups

Evaluating your activities and expenditure

Financial support for students

In-kind support

Targets and milestones

Your access agreement must include targets that set out the desired outcomes of the work described in your access agreement. These targets must:

Related guidance

Targets and milestones in your access agreement

Monitoring and evaluation arrangements

Your access agreement must include:

Related guidance

Evaluating your activities and expenditure

Targets and milestones in your access agreement

Setting your access agreement strategy

Involving students

Equality and diversity

Your access agreement must include:

Related guidance

Equality and diversity in access agreements

Provision of information to prospective students

Your access agreement must include:

Related guidance

Providing information to students

Publishing your access agreement

Consulting with students

Your access agreement must include:

Related guidance

Consulting with students

Step 4: How to submit your access agreement to OFFA

Use the HEFCE extranet to submit both your text access agreement and resource plan.

Click here for instructions on using the extranet

Next steps

What happens after you submit your access agreement, including the assessment and decision process, and what to do if your agreement is not approved.

You must publish your access agreement when it is approved. We will also publish it on our website.

How we will monitor the commitments that you make in your agreement

What happens if you do not comply with the agreement

If you have a question or concern

We welcome early discussions with you about the development of your access agreement and are happy to comment on draft proposals. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your access agreement, or if you have questions about our guidance, contact the key OFFA policy adviser for your institution (find out who your key OFFA contact is and how to contact them).

Our guidance will be regularly updated to clarify issues raised by institutions as we receive further queries.