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Economics researchers work with OFFA to publish new guidance for outreach programmes

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Economics researchers work with OFFA to publish new guidance for outreach programmes

OFFA publishes new guidance on the evaluation of outreach

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has today published new guidance and proposed standards for the evaluation of outreach by universities and colleges as part of ongoing work to improve the impact of outreach across the higher education sector.

OFFA commissioned a team at the University of Warwick in August 2016 to investigate how universities and colleges evaluate their outreach schemes for young, disadvantaged learners who are the first in their family to go to higher education. This first phase of OFFA’s ongoing research into the impact of outreach has used feedback from universities with an access agreement and interviews with widening participation staff in eight institutions to understand current evaluation practice, leading to the development of proposed standards of evaluation.

In the second phase of the project, for which OFFA has today published an invitation to tender, these standards will be tested with a number of outreach schemes, delivered by institutions and third party organisations, to help OFFA develop further guidance on the evaluation of outreach, and to provide data on the impact of outreach in different contexts.

Commenting, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

“Universities and colleges invest substantial sums of money in outreach schemes, so it is vital that they can demonstrate the impact of this investment on access for disadvantaged young people. Having challenged institutions to improve the ways in which they evaluate their work, I am pleased to be able to support them in meeting this challenge by enhancing our guidance on what constitutes effective evaluation.

“Evaluation is not a ‘one size fits all’ exercise. This research has demonstrated that the sector is engaged in a wide variety of approaches to evaluation, all of which have their place. But what we have also learned in this phase of the project is that despite the many differences between institutions, a number of key challenges are shared across the sector. So there is clear scope for us to work collaboratively towards solutions to these issues.”

Professor Robin Naylor from the University of Warwick’s Department of Economics, Joint Principle Investigator on the project, said:

"From our questionnaire surveys, interviews and discussions across the sector, it is apparent that there is an enthusiasm among university admissions and outreach teams to implement effective evaluation in order to inform widening participation strategies. There are also excellent sector-leading examples of current best practice in evaluation. We hope that our recommendations and proposals will support both the diffusion and the further development of best practice in the evaluation of outreach in higher education."