The Widening Participation (WP) event, which will be held on Monday 27 November 2017, marks the first national symposium focusing specifically on the evaluation of WP. The University of Sheffield was chosen to collaborate on the event as a result of the work done by its Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Unit.
The HE sector estimates it will spend over £784.4 million on fair access and student success during the current academic year, with the University of Sheffield predicted to spend £14.3 million. Given this spend, the symposium aims to ensure there is a clear evidence base for how universities invest.
Dr Julian Crockford, Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Manager at the University of Sheffield, said: “Evaluation should not just be about coverage or spread, but about actively interrogating what we do. Not just to prove that it provides a satisfactory return on the very significant investment we make as a sector, but also to understand more about the potential students we’re working with, their lives and motivations, and discovering how we can support them better.”
The University of Sheffield has a track record of recruiting students from areas of low rates of participation in HE, and consistently achieves above the HESA benchmark for recruiting students from state rather than independent schools.
‘Evaluation must be more than just a tick-box exercise if we are to make the further, faster progress that is so needed in widening access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.’
The symposium comes at a key point in development of widening participation evaluation. Last month, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) published a report looking at access agreements, noting that 100 per cent of HEIs were now undertaking some level of evaluation. However, despite this coverage, there is awareness that there is more to be done.
Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “Universities and colleges invest substantially in widening participation activities, and good evaluation is key to getting the maximum impact out of that investment. Evaluation must be more than just a tick-box exercise if we are to make the further, faster progress that is so needed in widening access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. So I am delighted to be hosting this symposium in partnership with the University of Sheffield to support staff from across the sector in thinking more boldly and creatively about evaluation.”
Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education at the University of Sheffield, added: ““The University itself was founded on penny donations from the local citizens with the aim of bringing higher education within reach of the children of the people working in the great industries of Sheffield. We’re pleased to have been chosen to work with OFFA to highlight the importance of evaluation and share best practice in this important area, which really represents our core values.”
For further info on the symposium, or to book your place, click here.