The National Co-ordination Team for Widening Participation and Access to Higher Education


  WP Events for your diaries

                                                      CALENDAR OF EVENTS



28 January 2020: ‘Successful objective-led planning: putting outreach frameworks into practice’, London

This session will equip you to frame practical and achievable objectives from your outreach framework, then translate these into successful workshop designs.

Causeway Education design and deliver over 100 workshops a year, from student sessions to staff CPD, and are experts at creating learning experiences which meet concrete objectives. Learn how to best use a framework to plan sessions. You will leave with a range of new strategies, from plenaries for assessing learning, to techniques for constructing a full learning cycle, to developing strategies to assess student learning during a workshop.


29 January 2020: NCOP: what’s next?, a NEON Summit, Birmingham

In the next 18 months the NCOP project will be reaching a vital point as it moves towards the end of the second phase. As NCOP’s are expected to deliver targeted outreach within current wards – this is a crucial time to review the progress that NCOP has made and also discuss its future. To support the work of NCOP partnerships, NEON is holding this summit to enable NCOP practitioners to:

  • Discuss the delivery objectives for the NCOP project in its second phase
  • Hear from policymakers and other partners
  • Learn about evaluation and how it shows that NCOP is making a difference
  • Examine what makes NCOP sustainable
  • Share best practice and discuss some of the challenges of the second phase.


29 January 2020: ‘Can data drive access & participation? How data can help higher education providers and partnerships meet their targets’, NEON Summit, Birmingham

Delegates will also hear new perspectives on assessing progress in widening access work at the institutional and national level with the launch of the new NEON report: ‘Hitting the Target: What Access and Participation Plans tell us about access to HE.’
This event will examine the range of data available regarding who participates and succeeds in HE and how it is and can be used to drive improvements in students outcomes. It will outline the different data sources available and identify their relevance and use to those with responsibility for access & participation in HE providers and partnerships. Delegates will gain a greater understanding of how data on participation, achievement and progression can enhance the impact their work in the area of widening access to HE.

Speakers include: Carys Fisher, Senior Policy Executive, UCAS; Eliza Kozman, Deputy Director of Research, TASO; Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy and Community Engagement, Buckinghamshire New University; Phil Dent, Director, CiP Alliance; Dr Graeme Atherton, Director, NEON; Sir Les Ebdon, ex Director of the Office for Fair Access and Chair of NEON.


29-30 January 2020: STEM graduates for a world of change, STEM Conference 2020, Advance HE The Studio, Manchester

This two-day conference highlights cutting edge pedagogies, innovations and research taking place across the STEM sector through a variety of peer-led sessions. This year’s Advance HE STEM conference looks at how we prepare our students in a constantly changing world, with a focus on how we ensure our graduates learn the appropriate skills and attributes necessary for the global workplace.


30 January 2020: ‘Mental Health in Higher Education’, Bloomsbury, London.

At this Westminster Insight conference:

  • Learn how to effectively streamline pastoral care and shift staff cultures
  • Discover how to establish effective partnerships with external agencies to enable integrated responses and processes
  • Adopt a whole university approach to mental health
  • Learn how to effectively streamline pastoral care and shift staff cultures
  • Explore what Universities should do to protect ‘at risk’ students from suicide.


4 February 2020: EDI for Managers, Advance HE, York

The EDI for Managers workshop on 4 February 2020 in London will provide up-to-date information to increase your knowledge of employment practice and ensure that your management is supportive and compliant with relevant legislation.

This one-day workshop, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for Managers, is designed for anyone who is responsible for recruiting, managing, and developing a diverse workforce. It provides the practical knowledge and skills needed to deal fairly and effectively with the range of equality and diversity issues related to management, including accommodation of protected group needs and building an inclusive team culture.

The day will provide up-to-date information to increase your knowledge of employment practice and ensure that your management is supportive and compliant with relevant legislation. You will build skills to maximise team performance, enable staff to realise their potential, and explore your own relationship to diversity and how it impacts your management style.


5 February 2020: ‘Coping with Cuts: Doing More with Less’, Kingston University, Penrhyn Rd Campus

There weeks left to the conference. Early bird rate runs out this Friday. You will have the opportunity to hear from researchers, support organisations and education practitioners about:

  • National and local research findings, local trends and responses to SEND funding cuts
  • SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) preparation for transition to HE
  • Complying with the SEND Code of Practice 2015 with less funding
  • Support from the perspective of neurodiversity
  • Student autonomy and empowerment
  • Generic and specific support available to learners with SEND within education

You will also be able to:

  • Share the experiences of students at points of transition to HE/life after university
  • Encourage a community of practice through the sharing of positive and effective practice
  • Develop new relationships with local organisations

Keynotes from: Ben Bryant, Director, Isos, ‘The SEND system in context: Pressures, trends and local strategies’; and Julie Percival, Assistant Principal, Curriculum and High Needs, Steve Dixon, Head of School Foundation Learning & Gail Walmsley, Head of Learning Support, South Thames Colleges Group, ‘High Needs Students in the FE Context’

The event is FREE to Aimhigher London members. For further information about becoming an Aimhigher London member please email Hazel McNeill:

To book a place at the conference.


5 February 2020: Fifth Degree Apprenticeship 2020 Conference, Universities UK, London

Sessions will include:

This conference is the perfect chance get an update on the latest news and policy development surrounding the future of degree apprenticeships – especially in view of the results of December’s general election. Degree apprenticeships and their critical role in meeting digital skills needs – with Jenny Taylor from IBM UK and Bob Clift from the Tech Partnership Company; the pre-apprenticeship skills programme at the Co-op – with Tracey Lancaster, who manages the Co-operative’s Food Apprenticeship programme, nstitute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education – an update from Chief Executive, Jennifer Coupland.

On the day, we will additionally be hearing from: Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive, University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC); Tracey Lancaster, Food Apprenticeship Manager at the Co-operative Group; Kate Ross, Apprenticeship Programme Training Lead, IBM; Conor Moss, Business Engagement, Skills and Employability, Sheffield Hallam University; Greg Wade, Policy Manager, Universities UK

We’ll also cover topics such as the role of degree apprenticeships in widening participation, working in partnerships to promote degree apprenticeships, and innovation through vocational training – a case study from Sheffield Hallam University. The conference will take place during National Apprenticeship Week, and presents a great chance for you to network with colleagues, gain a clear picture of degree apprenticeship policy developments and best practice to help you make the most of the opportunities available.


12 February 2020: Session 2: Collecting (evaluation) information, London

NEON one of four full day training sessions in 2020 around the evaluation of widening access activities, facilitated by Dr Graeme Atherton (Director, NEON & Head, AccessHE)

Further information on this training programme.


27 February 2019: Enhancing the Student Experience, Universities UK, London

Climate change; free speech; decolonising public institutions, are all issues that Gen Z care about deeply. A new generation of students is entering higher education, bringing with them new expectations of what their time at university will be like.
In addition to existing priorities such as mental wellbeing, academic attainment, and support for widening participation students, universities will have to be more conscious of the needs and interests of this new, unprecedentedly diverse cohort of students.
This conference will bring together sector leaders to look at how the sector can help students learn and thrive in a fast-moving and constantly changing world.

Topics will include: that we will be covering include: Initiations, Free speech, Wellbeing, Retention, Sustainability and climate change, International student engagement.


27 February 2020: The next steps for the Further Education sector in England – governance, accountability and ensuring quality provision, central London

This conference will assess the future governance and accountability of further education (FE) colleges and how to ensure quality provision.

It follows the government announcement of £400m in funding for providers of 16-19 education to be spread across 257 colleges in England, which aims to alleviate financial uncertainty in the sector.

Areas for discussion include: reforming college oversight, the new insolvency regime and improving the sector’s financial resilience; college provision in local areas, restructuring, and the future of the merger process; and improving FE provision within colleges, and strengthening the relationship with employers and HE.

Speakers include: Tara Murray, Deputy Director, Provider Market Oversight, Education and Skills Funding Agency and a senior speaker confirmed from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future; Paul McKean, Head of Further Education and Skills, Jisc; Jon Brookes, Social Value Lead, Wates Group Services; John Callaghan, Principal and Chief Executive, Solihull College & University Centre; Stefan Drew, Education Consultant and Former College Marketing Director; Stephanie Mason, Partner, RSM UK and a senior representative confirmed from Pearson.

In addition – sharing their experience of work at Guernsey College on the design of a curriculum to support low-attaining youth – there will be contributions from: Louise Misselke, Principal, Guernsey College and Professor Liz Atkins, Professor of Vocational Education and Social Justice, Institute of Education, University of Derby.


4 March 2020: UCAS Media masterclass’, Edinburgh, The Macdonald

Back for a third successive year, UCAS Masterclasses will take a detailed look at the UCAS Undergraduate End of cycle Report, what has been learnt from 2019 and how the changing student landscape should be informing marketing and recruitment strategies in 2020.
UCAS is exhibiting at seven different locations across the UK. If you would like to attend a free masterclass, reserve your place at one of the locations below. A full agenda can be found here.

Booking is first-come, first-served and we have limited availability for each venue – book today to avoid missing out.


4 March 2020: Session 3: Analysing (evaluation) information, London

NEON four full day training sessions in 2020 around the evaluation of widening access activities, facilitated by Dr Graeme Atherton (Director, NEON & Head, AccessHE)

Further information on this training programme.


10-11 March 2020: Digifest 2020, Jiscmail, International Convention Centre, Birmingham

Digifest is the edtech event for middle and senior-level managers and change leaders in further and higher education. Taking place annually over two days, Digifest celebrates the power and  possibilities of digital technologies and how they’ll be shaping the ways we teach, learn, live and work in the 21st century.

‘Industry 4.0’ technologies are already all around us, changing the ways in which we live, work and learn. By 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted and 54% of all employees will require re-skilling and upskilling.

So how to prepare for this transformation? Digifest 2020 captures the excitement and challenge of managing that evolutionary change – a challenge that will see wholesale changes to the jobs market where 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have as yet to be invented!

Over the two days Digifest 2020 will explore: Education 4.0 and the world of work; Lifelong learning; Ethics and 4.0; Learning spaces with digital injection; Education 4.0: technology in action, sharing best practice.


17-19 March 2020: Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2020, Edinburgh,

Supported by the Scottish Funding Council, the event will bring together the annual EDI conference and the biannual Scotland EDI conference into one three-day event with the theme Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality. Day one will have a specific focus on EDI work and policy in Scotland.

We are seeking submissions from EDI practitioners and academics who have taken courageous and adventurous approaches to embedding EDI into their work and have redressed the balance of inequality for students and staff. We’d like to hear about the latest initiatives and projects that are making a real and lasting difference in the sector.

Conference’s sub-themes:

  • leading the change: Embedding strategic approaches to equality in colleges and higher education institutions
  • breaking the taboo: Addressing hidden and stigmatised areas of inequality confidently and effectively
  • positive action: Advancing underrepresentation and inequality through targeted initiatives
  • EDI and leadership
  • belonging and safe space
  • bridging the gaps
  • thinking forward: Effective management of EDI in a changing environment
  • skills building for EDI change.


25 March 2020: Special Educational Needs and Disability Conference, central London
As the government launches a SEND review into the Children and Families Act 2014, Westminster Insight’s annual conference has a range of knowledgeable speakers: Anne Heavy, Independent Adviser from the review and National Director for Whole School SEND at NASEN; Malcolm Reeve, National SEND Leader, Whole School SEND; Dr Joseph Mintz, Associate Professor in Education, Institute of Education; Dr Julia Katherine, Head of Inclusion, Portsmouth City Council; Ann Jones, Principal Adviser for SEN, Barking and Dagenham Council; Professor Sonia Blandford, Director, Achievement for All.

Mainly aimed at school and college staff this conference also gives insight into SEND school and college developments (including teachers who support pupils with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs), and opportunities to network with peers from local authorities, schools, and the voluntary sector.

27 March 202: ’Whole institution approach to improving commuter student engagement and success’, central London

Edge Hill University, in collaboration with the National Union of Students, is pleased to offer a free workshop for higher education providers and students’ unions to utilise research evidence about developing a whole institution approach to improving commuter student engagement and success.

The workshop is intended for teams of staff and students (made up of between two and five members), and priority will be given to carefully selected teams if places are limited. The workshop will focus on using the research evidence to develop interventions, involve pre- and post- workshop work, and
participants are requested to implement and evaluate their interventions, approaches or strategies, and share their experiences and impact with Edge Hill University providing feedback on the progress and impact of their work up to three times via an on-line survey, email or a phone call.
The anticipated outcomes are that by the end of the workshop each team will have:

  • reviewed their institution’s strengths and weaknesses with regards to commuter student engagement
  • assessed their institution’s progress towards a whole institution approach to improving commuter student engagement and success
  • identified priorities to improve commuter student engagement and success
  • developed evidence-informed interventions, approaches or strategies to enhance the engagement and success of commuter students, and contribute to a whole institution approach; and
  • planned the evaluation strategy (based on theory of change and logic chains, identifying intermediate and longer-term impact) that can be used to evaluate the impact of the intervention.

For more information please contact Liz Thomas


31 March 2020: ‘The First Step of the Journey Into HE’, Stand Alone / UCAS conference, UCL, London

Stand Alone is running this conference in collaboration with UCAS. You will hear from UCAS about the new tick box for estranged applicants to self-identify and the UCAS project around supporting estranged students at pre-application stage.

A panel of current estranged students will share their experiences of the challenges they faced when applying to higher education while at school/college.

The aim of the conference is also to explore how to provide information, advice and guidance for estranged applicants and their teachers/advisers through outreach pre-entry and support with transition into your institution. You will have the opportunity to discuss best practice with colleagues in a workshop of your choice. For enquiries please contact Susan on


1 April 2020: Session 4: (Evaluating), making an impact, London

NEON one of four full day training sessions in 2020 around the evaluation of widening access activities, facilitated by Dr Graeme Atherton (Director, NEON & Head, AccessHE)

Further information on this training programme.


1-3 April 2020: Diversity, identity and inclusion in Lifelong Learning:  Shaping a 2020 vision for mature students, UALL 2020 ANNUAL CONFERENCE, University of Liverpool
This is a pivotal time for lifelong learning within higher education. Institutions are being challenged to create a learning landscape that not only widens inclusion and diversity, but which also actively reaches out to mature learners, a group often neglected in the widening participation debate. This conference will explore the context, frameworks and approaches needed for lifelong learning to thrive in the coming decades. It will encourage international as well as UK perspectives and encourage participation from both consumers – mature students themselves – and those involved in delivering vision and programmes within the higher education sector.

Conference themes:

  • Engaging, teaching and retaining lifelong learners
  • Work-based and work-related learning
  • Widening participation and mature students
  • Learning, maturity and motivation.

2 April 2020: Next steps for improving social mobility in England: the impact of the Opportunity Areas programme and tackling regional inequality affecting young people, Westminster Education Forum policy conference, Central London

The seminar follows the recent announcement from the DFE of an extension of the programme for a further year backed by funding of £18m to target improvement in educational outcomes, careers advice, and teacher recruitment. Stakeholders and policymakers will discuss priorities for the next parliament and options.

The agenda will: address regional inequality in the UK and its impact on the opportunities for young people; analyse the current landscape of social mobility and the Opportunity Areas Programme impact so far, progress in improving social mobility in cold spots across England. And examine new ways to tackle inequalities among young people together with best practice in using current educational provision and developing community-led solutions and partnerships to improve opportunities for young people.

Delegates will consider the role of universities including:

  • deepening their relationships with schools and colleges,
  • increasing students access to university before and during the application process through activities such as summer schools and campus visits, and
  • improving the transition to university, with enhanced support when students first arrive.

The chair of the All-Party Group on Social Mobility in the last parliament, Justin Madders, will be chairing a session at the conference. Speakers include: Dame Martina Milburn, Chair, Social Mobility Commission; Alison Wilson, Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education; Anand Shukla, Brightside; Sarah Holmes-Carne, Kenton School; Dr Tim Coulson, Norwich Opportunity Area; Wayne Norrie, Greenwood Academies Trust, Nottinghamshire – and Anne-Marie Canning, King’s College London and Bradford Opportunity Area. To book.


22 April 2020: Employability Symposium 2020: Breaking the mould, Advance HE, at AdvanceHE York

Individuals and society are increasingly expecting a different return on their investment in a university degree. Given the current policy context and a focus on graduate level outcomes by the OfS it’s important to understand and anticipate what this topography means in order to enable student success.

This symposium will explore how HE providers are focusing on these shifts: to work in new ways, to collaborate, to provide fuller foundations for continuous learning and ultimately to provide a long-term commitment to ensuring students succeed and maximise their chances of chosen progression, in particular towards employment.

AdvanceHE is particularly keen to encourage submissions that cover:

  • Inter and/or transdisciplinary approaches to employability.
  • Designing inclusive approaches to employability opportunities.
  • Innovative, high impact pedagogies.
  • Policy and institutional contexts focused on systematic and strategic change.


22-23 April 2020: Access, Participation and Success (APS), 6th International Biennial Conference, Open University, Hilton Hotel, Milton Keynes
Whose voice is it anyway? Putting students at the heart of widening participation policy and practice. The OU’s 6th international Access, Participation and Success (previously Widening Access and Success (WAS)) biennial conference conference shifts the focus away from policymakers and widening participation practitioners towards the voice of students who are either under-represented or disadvantaged and how they experience higher education. It aims to explore whether the strategic direction and approaches implemented by higher education (HE) providers reflect the experiences of students who come from diverse backgrounds. Outcomes of the event will be collated to inform future policy and strategic decisions. Call for papers deadline 10 January 2020.
The conference will focus on specific characteristics associated with access, participation and success, recognising that students will inevitably present multiple characteristics.  Based on sector-wide priorities the themes of the conference will be:
Students from low socio-economic backgrounds

  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic students
  • Disabled students, including physical, mental and learning difficulties
  • Mature learners
  • Care leavers
  • Carers

Delegates will enjoy a mix of student and policymaker panel discussions, lightning talks and workshops plus keynotes from leading sector practitioners and academics.


3-4 June 2020: Beyond measure? Exploring what counts in higher education, QAA’s Scotland’s 4th international enhancement conference, Glasgow city centre.

Save the date. Registration open January 2020. We’ll be welcoming 450 delegates from around the world with the common goal of enhancing HE strategy, policy and practice. The 2020 conference will centre on four questions: How can we use evidence to support decision-making?  What counts as valid evidence?  How can we ensure we are working in partnership with students?  How can we ensure that we are using evidence ethically?

  • Through plenary sessions, papers and workshops, we will explore five conference strands:
  • Understanding student demographics, retention, progression and success
  • Using big data to enhance learning and teaching and the student experience
  • Creating and valuing evidence beyond numbers
  • Empowering staff and students to use evidence
  • Supporting employability and the development of graduate skills.


4 June 2020: ‘What Happens Next – Moving On after Graduation’, Stand Alone CPD Conference, University of Sunderland

Estranged graduates struggle with barriers into a graduate job or moving on to postgraduate study.

Whole university departments and initiatives are dedicated to improving access and retention for students from non-traditional backgrounds. At Stand Alone we have been aware that transitioning out of university also presents a challenge for estranged students.

In 2019 therefore we undertook a survey to find out about the kind of barriers and challenges for students estranged from their families experience when moving on after graduation. We published our findings in our report ‘What Happens Next’ in January 2020.

This conference will look at the findings of our report and what it means to estranged students who are heading into employment or postgraduate study. We will explore what kind of support the HE sector can implement but also what government and employers should do to improve the successful transition of estranged graduates. There will be presentations from universities who are already developing support postgraduation as part of the student life cycle.


18-19 June 2020: ‘2020 NEON Summer Symposium’, University of Exeter.
The theme of the eighth Summer Symposium is “Let’s work together – how can students shape the future of widening access”. The conference will examine the priority placed on involving students, both prospective and existing, in the design, delivery and evaluation of widening access & participation at the strategic and operational level. How can we ensure more effective, equal partnership with the beneficiaries of widening access initiatives and that the student voice becomes a key part of the work which is carried out across the whole student lifecycle?
During the conference, we will be discussing the importance of partnership working in order to both widen access to higher education (HE) and to support students from under-represented groups through HE into employment.  We will hear from key figures from the education sector talking about why the student voice is important, and we will discuss the challenges of engaging students in a productive way that enhances the work we do and ensures that their needs are being met.
Bringing together key figures from across the education sector, policymakers and employers with organisations from across sectors committed to social mobility through widening access to HE, thus NEON’s eighth Summer Symposium will be the most important event for those working in the field in 2020.

1-3 July 2020: FACE annual conference, ‘The place of Higher Education and Lifelong Learn ing: a vision for 2020 and beyond’, University of East London, Stratford

The 2020 FACE Conference (organised and delivered by Continuum at the university of East London Stratford campus). This part of London has a rich cultural heritage and delegates will enjoy the mix of Stratford’s industrial past as well as being able to see the impact of redevelopment and regeneration which was accelerated by the 2012 Olympics. This is an excellent opportunity to share your research and practice with like-minded professionals in a collegiate setting. You will be welcome at the FACE Conference and UEL, the place of higher education and lifelong learning in East London.

Submissions for Abstracts, Paper presentation, Symposia, Posters, and for the Panel discussions. Visit here to see the find out more and to register.


7-9 July 2020: Teaching in the spotlight: Creative thinking to enhance the student experience: From curriculum design to student success, Teaching and Learning Conference 2020 Advance HE, venue tbc

Across higher education the focus on enhancing all aspects of teaching and learning remains a critical issue for those seeking to provide an outstanding student experience at all levels of taught provision. At the heart of excellent teaching is curriculum design – to achieve great curriculum design requires excellent staff and the result of great curriculum design is an improved student experience and increased student success.

Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference 2020 will continue to position the spotlight firmly on teaching in a global context, in particular this year the conference will explore creative thinking for enhancing the student experience and improving educational outcomes and experience. The conference will focus on all aspects of teaching and learning from initial curriculum design, through improving assessment and feedback, creative initiatives to retain students, and work that results in improved attainment. All these elements along with other aspects of teaching and learning result in increased student success and satisfaction.

8-10 September 2020: NET2020 Conference, University of Bath

The leading annual international conference for networking in healthcare education, NET2020 addresses all areas of healthcare education across all healthcare professions. This year the conference will focus on the following themes:

  • Educational enhancement: including the sub-themes of Humanising healthcare education; Assessing the impact of pre- and post-registration learning on clinical practice; and Partnership working.
    •    Learning, teaching and assessment strategies: including the sub-themes of Evidence-based learning, teaching and assessment; Interprofessional learning and working; Education in clinical practice and practice development; and technology enhanced learning.
    •    Key challenges in healthcare education: including the sub-themes of Global challenges in healthcare education; Developing the future healthcare education workforce; and Social, economic and policy drivers in healthcare education.
    •    Student experience, engagement and achievement: including the sub-themes of Inclusivity in healthcare education; Widening participation; Student support and wellbeing; and Retention and success in healthcare education.

Bookings are currently not open but see conference website for further details.