Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Futures forum part 3, Sir Martin Harris, Director of OFFA, Office for Fair Access

Widening participation and fair access.
Sector has been staggeringly successful in WP, it's one of the great success stories of British unis. Have given opportunities to many more people than was possible a few years ago. Test of next few years will be can we sustain it. We're at the start of a new radical period.

We need to get our message across. Students have impression that HE is either not affordable or worth it for them. Deferred graduate contributions are not the same as up-front fees. We need to get his out. Unis are part of way that upward social mobility is increased, we must have that as our goal and sustain the opportunities we've delivered so successfully.

Pricing. No evidence that pricing will influence what uni students choose. Maybe under new regime, but not convinced. Choice is made on a number of complex factors, many of them social. Financial is unlikely to be decisive.

Student support or outreach? Outreach is vitally important. Decisions that students make at 14ish in schools is the key way to raise aspirations and attainment.

Bursaries or fee waivers? Won't know what students will choose for a couple of years. Will have effect on treasury forecasts.

Important question - will there continue to be in all communities an institution with a reasonable range of courses so that students who cannot or will not move elsewhere have the opportunity to do the course of their choice? Can institutions survive to offer the right range of courses? Will have effect on access if not.

Critical nature of advice and guidance to schoolkids. Has to be informed. Unis can help in outreach.

Look at retention, don't just concentrate on recruitment. Keeping and supporting the students is as much a part of a successful access policy as getting the student

This is a transition year, don't willfully allow things to stop in 2011/12 because of funding gap, use money wisely. Don't lose people. Don't stop collaborating where its appropriate.
Despite competitive pressures, we must not cease to be a sector.

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