Evaluating the impact of outreach for adult learners from disadvantaged backgrounds

By Wendy Fowle, Senior Manager, Research and Evaluation (Widening Access and Success), the Open University

On 2nd March 2017, colleagues involved in this OU-led, collaborative project, hosted a seminar at the Universities UK offices in London, presenting their interim findings.  Positioning the project within its policy context, David Barrett (Assistant Director, OfFA), Ben Spratt (Policy Adviser, OfFA) and Fiona Waye (Senior Policy Lead in Inclusion, Equality and Diversity, Universities UK) spoke about the importance of adult learning at a time when numbers of mature, part-time learners are decreasing.  Aligned with a reduction in the projected number of 18 year olds in England, the speakers reinforced the need for provision for mature learners (who often study part-time and are more likely to come from disadvantaged or under-represented groups) to be embedded within the discourse of HE–and not an afterthought.

The presentations from each of the partners involved in the project (Leeds, Bristol and Birkbeck, University of London) highlighted the diverse approaches to outreach for disadvantaged adult learners and the complexity of evaluating its impact, particularly in a way that is scalable and transferable.  Recognising that no one-size fits all, the group discussions around the development of practical guidance to facilitate this evaluation raised issues around the context-specific nature of outreach for disadvantaged adult learners and the often, non-linear path taken by adult learners in their educational journey.  The full report is due to be published in May.  Presentations from the day can be accessed here.

For further information contact Wendy Fowle, Senior Manager, Research and Evaluation (Widening Access and Success), the Open University wendy.fowle@open.ac.uk

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