This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Jim Dickinson, Chief of Staff at UEA Students.
The old Office for Fair Access (OFFA) regime and the intended Access and Participation Plans work at an institutional level, but beneath institutional averages there are massive differences between subjects. Where, for example, providers deliver Nursing and Midwifery, that provision usually means a significant proportion of that provider’s mature recruits are enrolled on health courses. Without that provision, their performance would look significantly worse.
Former Director of Fair Access Les Ebdon previously argued that the law as it stood prevented him from analysing progress or regulating at subject or department level on the grounds of academic freedom. This is obviously problematic and preposterous. It was never clear if he was correct, or indeed if the Higher Education and Research Act (2017) changes things; but in any event, given the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework is to operate at subject (cluster) level, so should access regulation via Access and Participation Plans.
This should include a clear focus on the ‘professions’, where, despite general progress on higher education access, there appears to be little or no impact on the diversity of those entering Dentistry, Medicine or Law. As such, as well as strengthening links with schools / colleges to address prior attainment, the Office for Student’s focus on outcomes should strengthen links with industry associations and bodies to promote diverse access to the professions upon graduation.