OfS to seek new director for fair access and participation

Chris Millward’s four-year term of office will end in December 2021, the OfS has confirmed

The first director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students (OfS), Chris Millward, is to step down in December when his four-year term ends.

As director for fair access and participation, Chris Millward ensures that universities and colleges support underrepresented groups in accessing, and succeeding in, higher education. He is also responsible for the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), health policy and student welfare and safeguarding, and is an executive member of the OfS board.

Before joining the OfS in 2018, he worked as the OfS’s predecessor body the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), rising to become director of the Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange. Prior to this, he lent his expertise to the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Universities of Warwick, Edinburgh and Durham.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as the first director for fair access and participation at the OfS, every day of it inspired by the students and staff I have met in schools, colleges and universities across the country,” said Chris Millward.

I have seen a step change in the ambition and rigour of access and participation plans. This is yielding record levels of entry to the highest tariff universities for students from places that have benefited least from higher education expansion – Chris Millward, OfS

“When I started in 2018, we made fundamental changes to the way in which access and participation is regulated, giving universities and colleges more time to implement their plans, but expecting greater progress in return. We put more focus on supporting the most disadvantaged students beyond their entry to higher education and set standards for evaluating the impact of access and participation work.

“Since these reforms, I have seen a step change in the ambition and rigour of access and participation plans. This is yielding record levels of entry to the highest tariff universities for students from places that have benefited least from higher education expansion. Important steps have been made towards breaking the link between ethnicity, being awarded a good degree and progressing onto postgraduate study.

“My focus in the next seven months will be on driving further progress on these issues and supporting new opportunities through lifelong learning, so we truly open up the doors of our universities and colleges to everyone with the potential to succeed, regardless of their background.”

His thoughtful, considered and proactive approach has been of huge benefit to the OfS – Nicola Dandridge, OfS

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said:

“Chris has done an exceptional job during his term as the OfS’s first director for fair access and participation. Under Chris’ leadership, universities and colleges have markedly increased their ambition. This can be seen both in ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to access higher education and – crucially – are supported to succeed once they get there. Chris has been clear in articulating that unexplained gaps in attainment and outcomes for students from different backgrounds must be closed without any compromise to quality and standards.

“The way in which Chris has worked has commanded enormous respect – from colleagues here at the OfS, to the universities and colleges we regulate, the students he has met and all those with a shared interest in achieving equality of opportunity for all students. His thoughtful, considered and proactive approach has been of huge benefit to the OfS and the result of his work will reap rewards, with lives being transformed through the power of higher education.”

Universities minister Michelle Donelan thanked Chris Millward for his work and said information on the appointment of the next director for fair access and participation would begin soon.


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