Are you aware there are a range of funding opportunities available to potentially support widening participation and student success initiatives within the sector? The Government has recently announced three funding opportunities which higher education institutions (HEIs) can access directly and indirectly. I am keen to encourage practitioners and researchers in FACE to take an active role in crafting bids to access some of these sought-after funds. I have been fortunate to support, and often lead, several successful high value revenue and capital bids throughout my career. In my experience, there is no secret formula to accessing funds, often just a good idea and evidence to support the concept. Of course, not all bids are successful, and they can take up valuable resources to draft properly. However, if successful, they can lead to transformative initiatives that have a long-lasting impact on people’s lives.
Levelling Up Fund Round 2
The first funding opportunity I want to highlight is the second round of the Levelling Up Fund. This fund is designed to support capital investment in local infrastructure and increase opportunities in areas requiring greater economic growth. The first round of the Levelling Up Fund supported £1.7 billion of projects in over 100 locations in the UK.
At ARU Peterborough, the new university in Peterborough, we were able to secure £20 million from the first round of funding to support our second teaching building and a Living Lab, to support our public engagement. We were able to demonstrate how these developments will support regeneration and cultural investment. There were several other higher education associated bids submitted from the sector, including the redevelopment of a former Debenhams building in Gloucester into a university campus.
The second round retains the priority themes of transport investment, regeneration and town centre investment and cultural investment. The funding will also be targeted using the Index of Priority Places that considers the following characteristics:
- need for economic recovery and growth
- need for improved transport connectivity and
- need for regeneration
HEIs cannot directly access this funding, however, they can propose bids to the appropriate local authority. Further details can be found in the LUF prospectus: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-fund-round-2-prospectus/levelling-up-fund-round-2-prospectus
UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and Multiply
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a part of the government’s Levelling Up agenda. It has the potential to deliver £2.6 billion of investment in areas of deprivation.
There are three investment priorities:
- Community and Place
- Supporting Local Business; and
- People and Skills
All three of these priority areas have the potential to benefit from higher education associated initiatives, partially given the renewed focus on our civic missions. We also have an impressive track record of delivering projects at scale within challenging timescales.
An initiative within SPF is Multiply, a national scheme to improve functional numeracy skills. The experience of widening participation practitioners in delivering mentoring and tutoring schemes should ensure these professionals are well placed to support innovative bids to assist in the delivery of Multiply. These bids could also benefit from collaboration between HEIs, perhaps using networks developed through the Uni Connect initiate.
In the same way as Levelling UP, HEIs cannot directly access this funding, they can propose bids to the appropriate local authority. Further details on the Shared Prosperity Fund: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-prospectus/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-prospectus and Multiply https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/multiply-funding-available-to-improve-numeracy-skills
Office for Students (OfS) capital funding
The OfS have published the arrangements for the distribution of capital funding for financial years 2022-23 to 2024-25. £11million of this funding is based on a formula allocation, the vast majority (£400 million) is through a bidding exercise, with priority going to bids that meet the broader objective of the funding. The submission deadline is by the 27 June, with the outcome being announced in September.
This funding is relevant to those supporting student success, with the criteria stating the object is ‘To enhance the learning experience of higher education students at providers, by helping raise the quality of their learning and teaching facilities to support high-quality, skills-based education’. These priorities are further defined as the following:
Directly support relevant facilities:
- The purchase of equipment (including IT equipment) used for learning, teaching or assessment (excludes renting/hiring)
- The acquisition, replacement or construction of premises or infrastructure (including IT infrastructure) used for learning, teaching, or assessment
- The refurbishment, expansion or adaptation of existing premises or infrastructure (including IT infrastructure) that are to be used for learning, teaching, or assessment.
Support one or more of the three priority categories:
- Category 1:
High-cost subjects of strategic importance
- Category 2:
Enhancement of graduate employability and skills needs of employers and industry and therefore local and regional economies.
- Category 3:
Part-time and other forms of flexible provision to include the
development of higher education short course study.
This funding has the potential to support a range of widening participation related initiatives within an institution. I advise you find out who in your institution is leading on the bidding process and outline your ideas on how it meets the criteria found in the invitation to tender
Further details on OfS Capital Funding: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/39674bd9-2646-41a9-b290-19feadb05846/capital-funding-for-financial-years-2022-23-to-2024-25-invitation-to-bid.pdf
The most successful bids are often ones developed in partnership with key stakeholders and utilise ideas from practitioners, ensuring the projects meet the needs of the communities they are designed to serve.
Professor Ross Renton
Principal of ARU Peterborough and Co-Chair of FACE
Photo by Arisa Chattasa