Nottingham Trent University to take part in research into improving university outreach

Nottingham Trent University has been selected to take part in research aimed at improving higher education outreach schemes.

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Outreach work run by NTU

Nottingham Trent University has been selected to take part in research aimed at improving higher education outreach schemes.

Commissioned by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), the study aims to improve understanding the impact of outreach schemes on access to higher education for students from disadvantaged groups, and to improve evaluation practice across the sector.

Led by the University of Warwick, with researchers from the University of York, the team will set out the principles underlying 'good' evaluation and develop protocols designed to enable institutions to evaluate the effectiveness of their own outreach schemes. These will be informed by the diversity of current practice within the sector, suitable for use by all institutions, and applicable irrespective of the current stage of development or implementation of their outreach schemes.

Nottingham Trent University, along with Aimhigher West Midlands, the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield, Bournemouth University, Sheffield Hallam University, and researchers from the Higher Education Access Tracker team, will take part in the research by helping to ensure that the protocols are applicable to all.

David Woolley, Head of Schools, Colleges and Community Outreach at Nottingham Trent University, said: "The Schools, Colleges and Community Outreach department is ideally placed to contribute to this important piece of research. One of the key features of the department is our strength in evaluation. We have data tracking the progress of the participants of our programmes across the student lifecycle from 2006/2007 which we use to inform provision and evidence success. But in addition to us using our strengths to support the sector, this research will prove invaluable in ensuring our outreach provision is as effective as it can be."

Dr Claire Crawford, University of Warwick's Department of Economics, will lead the team. She said: “Universities are spending a growing amount of time and resources trying to encourage more disadvantaged students to access higher education. But the evidence on whether these efforts have succeeded is woefully thin. This project offers an opportunity to better understand 'what works' in terms of outreach initiatives. Our hope is that by bringing together academics and practitioners from a range of institutions, the guidance we produce will be pragmatic and practical, but still underpinned by rigorous methods, giving institutions the tools to produce robust evaluations of their own outreach schemes in future.”

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: "This important project will help universities and colleges find out more about what's working best in their own contexts, so they can focus on the activities that have the greatest impact and thus ensure that the investment of over £150 million they have committed in their latest access agreements is well spent."

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said: "Universities are under more pressure than ever to recruit students from disadvantaged homes, yet the access gap remains stubbornly wide. A major weakness in universities' efforts to widen access has been the lack of proper evaluation and evidence. This important piece of research by the University of Warwick will help give us a much clearer idea of which strategies work best when it comes to widening participation."

  • Notes for editors

    * The project is funded by OFFA and the Sutton Trust.

    * The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.

    * Nottingham Trent University’s five-year strategic plan “Creating the University of the Future” has five main ambitions: Creating Opportunity, Valuing Ideas, Enriching Society, Connecting Globally and Empowering People.

    * The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Nottingham Trent University in November 2015. It is the highest national honour for a UK university and recognises the institution’s world-class research. Pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula, and combat food fraud, led to the prestigious award.

Nottingham Trent University to take part in research into improving university outreach

Published on 22 September 2016
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