Manifesto for the Director of Fair Access & Participation 7: Ant Sutcliffe and Dr. Hannah Merry, Higher Horizons+

Brightside and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have released a collection of action points for the new Office for Students on unlocking access to higher education. Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation contains the views of 35 leading thinkers from academia, university administration, Parliament, think tanks and the media.

We’re also publishing each entry individually. Here Ant Sutcliffe, Head, and Dr Hannah Merry, Operations
Manager of the Higher Horizons+ National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) consortium give their perspective:

‘Higher education providers are well-placed to lead collaborative networks which raise the aspirations and attainment of disadvantaged young people in their locality. From years of leading and evaluating widening participation work, we believe that collaborative outreach is not only ethically sound in an increasingly marketised sector, but is also financially efficient, reducing unnecessary duplication of work while utilising the varied strengths of a broad range of partners.

External funding is necessary to make higher education institutions work together effectively. This means collaborating on a variety of targeted interventions over a prolonged period, leading to the positive relationships with young people which are key to successful entry and progression through higher education.

The Office for Students should therefore provide external funding for a national programme for Year 5 pupils to Year 11 pupils which helps to break some of the cultural barriers to higher education based in class and localism that are difficult to tackle through short-term interventions.

Widening participation professionals are well placed to assess, identify, and overcome these barriers in partnership with businesses, schools, the community and national careers advice provision. With support from the Office for Students for a collaborative programme, universities’ central teams could then focus more on community-building projects, the mature student market, progression programmes for Year 12 and Year 13 pupils, and post-entry support to create a sustainable, whole lifecycle approach to widening participation and student success.’