£7million HEFCE funding to address student outcomes

Funding council’s Catalyst Fund aims to tackle barriers to student success 

Seventeen projects, involving 64 higher education providers, will receive up to £500,000 each from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund over two years to address differences in student outcomes.

HEFCE research has exposed gaps in the higher education outcomes between different student groups. These gaps in attainment and progression to further study and employment persist even when background characteristics and prior attainment are taken into account. HEFCE has announced the launch of the ‘Addressing barriers to student success’ programme to tackle the causes of these disparities.

The projects will particularly benefit those student groups affected by differential outcomes highlighted in previous HEFCE research, including black and minority ethnic students, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, disabled students (including those presenting with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties), mature students and part-time students.

The programme focuses on scaling up activities already proven to be successful in individual higher education providers, and will identify how good practice and interventions can be validated, replicated, transmitted and embedded across a wider range of providers. Projects will generate evidence across inclusive teaching and learning practices, employability, learning analytics, and wellbeing. 

Robust evaluation is a critical aspect of the programme. Alongside individual project evaluations, an independent programme-wide evaluation team will review project outcomes and identify key learning from the programme.

HEFCE will establish a network to support dialogue, engagement and exchange of knowledge between projects, starting with a launch event on Monday 8th May 2017. Throughout the programme, events and communications will ensure that good practice and lessons learnt are shared with all higher education providers.

Funding this programme will support real progress towards closing the unacceptable differences in outcomes between groups of students – Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said: “The significant response from higher education providers to this funding call demonstrates their commitment to ensuring all students benefit from a vibrant, inclusive, world-class higher education experience. Funding this programme will support real progress towards closing the unacceptable differences in outcomes between groups of students. We look forward to working with providers to make sure this targeted, evidence-led investment maximises outcomes for students – contributing to improved productivity and social mobility and, of course, individual opportunities.”

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