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 Andrew Berwick, Chief Executive of The Access Project (TAP).
Effective programmes change young people’s lives. This is magical, but building a programme is not magic. You pilot, then if this appears to work you develop and improve through evaluation and specific annual refinements.
The Access Project has run its programme since 2008, but this has been transformed through changes made every year. I am proud of the result: we have evidence of impact, and will make more changes to improve further.
Yet I am still dismayed by the wider progress made on access. Despite huge increases in spending, we are so far from closing the access gap. Increasing spending and volume of programmes is not solving this problem. We need better programmes. This can only happen by evaluating, improving what works, and dropping what does not.
The Office for Students should promote long-term evaluation planning, beyond the annual Access Agreement cycle. It should encourage all universities to invest in analytic capacity – even where it means reducing activity with young people.
Widening participation is a young endeavour within the field of education: we are improving, and have much to learn. I hope the Office for Students will foster a culture where we take our duty to learn as seriously as our duty to deliver.