Conference recap: 6th Annual Access to HE and Student Success Summit

By Andrew Rawson, FACE Executive Member

6th Annual Access to HE and Student Success Summit: Working together in a new landscape and Universities UK
This, the sixth annual national Access to HE and Student Success Summit took place at the Woburn Conference centre in London on the 9th November and the main purpose as always was to maintain a national spotlight on access, participation and student success in HE as well as to bring together all parts of the access and widening participation community together.  This year we were delighted to shine a spotlight on the work of the Social Mobility Advisory Group (SMAG), and the report, ‘Working in Partnership: Enabling Social Mobility in Higher Education – The final report of the Social Mobility Advisory Group’.
The Summit provided a unique and first opportunity for a public hearing for, and discussion of, the findings, analysis, and recommendations of the SMAG report ‘Working in Partnership…’ Asked for by the minister for education Jo Johnson, the SMAG investigated how higher education impacts on social mobility, exploring what higher education institutions are doing that works and recommending what more needs to be done. The Group considered the evidence and recognised that no one organisation or sector can resolve continuing deep-rooted inequalities. Instead, the extensive work that universities have been carrying out over many years needs to be built on, and collaborations and partnerships extended.
Some consistent key themes have emerged from the SMAG’s work, and are highlighted in the report: the need for a rigorously evidence-based approach to social mobility; the importance of evaluation to inform and shape future work; the gathering and sharing of data between universities, colleges, schools, employers and third sector organisations; the need to move away from the perception that people only have one chance for university study, at the age of 18; and that sustained change can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. The report also highlights and recommends to the sector the greater use of contextual data to inform offer-making, supported by the identification of good practice. Further information and to see or download the report:

A capacity-filled Woburn conference centre heard from speakers, Les Ebdon Director OFFA; Chris Millward, Director, Policy, the HEFCE; Alistair Jarvis Deputy Chief Exec, Universities UK; Clare MacDonald, Deputy Director, Department for Education; Steve McArdle, Anne-Marie Canning, Gaenor Bagley, and Sorana Vieru represented the cross-sector SMAG expertise for a vigorous debate on the SMAG report. In providing a forum for knowledge and good practice exchange the Summit explored: how the sector might take the Social Mobility Advisory Group recommendations forward with workshops tackling important inclusion issues such as: race equality; student retention and success; improving access, experience and success of white working class boys; broadening institutional demographics through increased mature, part-time study and more flexible learning.
Some of the delegates expressed their satisfaction and delight thus:
 “A very enjoyable experience. It was good to network with colleagues across the sector and share experience.”

“Interesting and thought-provoking conference, lots to take away, consider and potentially implement.”

“Well respected within the sector. Informative presentations”
“Excellent and very interesting day. Going away with lots of ideas.”

Andrew Rawson, Principal, Action on Access

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