Despite substantial financial commitment to widening participation activities internationally, robust evidence demonstrating ‘what works’ in facilitating disadvantaged learners to access Higher Education (HE) is remarkably sparse. Much effort has been directed at measuring immediate post-intervention changes in the aspirations, attitudes and behaviours thought to drive access to HE, rather than actual access itself. Here, we present an innovative quasi-experimental study of a multi-intervention outreach programme (UniConnect) consisting of 1,386 learners from the Aimhigher West Midlands database whose HE application results were known, while controlling for multiple variables, including estimates of deprivation. The results showed that any engagement with UniConnect, no matter how limited, was associated with an improved chance of achieving a place in HE, but the type of engagement, the extent of engagement and the combination of types of engagement all mattered. The more learners engaged with UniConnect, the greater were their chances of HE acceptance, but the benefit of each additional engagement beyond five or six engagements was small. To our knowledge, these findings are the first to indicate the number, type and combinations of interventions that are most effective in supporting progression to HE. These results therefore have important implications for future practice, enabling funding for such work to be used for optimal impact. Furthermore, we found large differences in success between schools, even when controlling for several other variables; a finding which has important implications for future evaluation research.
Bibliographical note© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
- Access and Participation
- Higher Education
- widening participation