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New Independent report evaluating Uni Connect

By: Office for Students

The Office for Students (OfS) has welcomed the publication of an independent report evaluating the effectiveness of Uni Connect. The report, commissioned by the OfS and written by Public First, calls for improvements to the programme, which brings together 29 partnerships of universities, colleges and other local partners to offer activities, advice and information on the benefits of higher education.

The review calls for reforms to Uni Connect, while retaining the model of centrally funded collaborative outreach. Other recommendations include:

  • Operating a smaller number of regional partnerships, which include representation from schools and colleges
  • Taking a more comprehensive approach to evaluating the impacts of the programme
  • The central delivery of some functions to benefit the wider Uni Connect programme.

Alongside the evaluation, Public First have also produced an analysis of the economic benefits of Uni Connect. This finds that…

…in 2020-21, every £1 spent by Uni Connect led to between £5 to £9 of economic benefit. In the same year, the programme led to an additional 2,350 university students, as well as an estimated 670 students who went to a university with higher entrance qualifications  than they may have done without additional support.

Commenting, John Blake, director for fair access and participation at the OfS, said:

“As this report shows, the Uni Connect programme has delivered benefits to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students who otherwise wouldn’t have accessed higher education have been supported to do so, with others going on to universities with higher entrance qualifications. As well as the life-changing benefits higher education can bring for individuals, these students will go on to make important contributions to society and the economy.

“But it is clear from Public First’s thorough analysis that more can be achieved. Despite the best efforts of the partnerships, the programme as a whole could clearly be more efficient and achieve greater success for more students. Careful thought needs to go into how the programme is delivered by the partnerships, managed by the OfS, and funded by government. The OfS will now consider the recommendations in the report. I have already met with the partnerships to share the findings of the review, and we will continue to engage closely with them as we take this work forward. Is this to take effect as of now or end of funding date ie July 2025?

“I am grateful to all the Uni Connect staff who contributed evidence to the review, in the form of survey responses and interviews with Public First. They provided important feedback to the OfS about how we can effectively manage these relationships going forward.  In reforming the programme, the OfS must also ensure that we are effectively supporting partnerships and providing clear strategic direction to their work.

“Uni Connect can – and does – play an important role in ensuring that everyone with the talent to benefit from higher education is able to benefit from it. In making improvements to the programme we can ensure it is set up to have a positive impact into the future.”

Read: A Review of Collaborative Support for Improving Equality of Opportunity in Access to Higher Education and An Economic Analysis of Uni Connect

For further information contact 0117 905 7676 or press@officeforstudents.org.uk

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