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


  WP Events for your diaries

                                                      CALENDAR OF EVENTS



9 January 2020: Improving provision for care leavers – implementing the Care Leaver Covenant and local offers and the transition into further education and employment, Westminster Education Forum policy conference, Central London

The discussion comes as Government continues to develop its approach to supporting young people leaving care through the introduction of the Care Leaver Covenant which aims to provide additional support for those leaving care; and publication by every local authority of local offers for care leavers. There will be a keynote contribution from Mark Riddell, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers, Department for Education.  Delegates will also look at the role further and higher education (HE) providers can play in supporting care leavers and improving access and participation in HE. It follows the publication by Government of guiding principles for HE institutions to improve their offer for care leavers including how to support care leavers before they enter HE, and financial and practical support such as accommodation provision and ensuring adequate support networks are in place.

Speakers include: Mark Riddell, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers, Department for Education and Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive Officer, Spectra First; Frank Young, Political Director and Head of the Family Policy Unit, Centre for Social Justice; Paul Startup, Head of Service, 18 + Care Leavers Service, Kent County Council and Rachel Calver, Service Manager for Transition, Leaving Care Service, Kent County Council. Further information:


21 January 1920: Priorities for supporting student mental health, Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference, central London

This seminar will examine sector priorities for supporting student mental health. The programme includes: the development of the University Mental Health Charter; supporting first year students as they transition to university; improving visibility and accessibility of mental health services and new approaches to identifying students at risk; developing a collaborative, multi-agency approach to mental health provision on campus; and innovative approaches to promoting emotional wellbeing and building resilience.

The University Mental Health Charter. With renewed focus by the Government on student mental health, delegates will discuss the development and implementation of the Government-backed University Mental Health Charter due to be published in December 2019, and the Charter’s key principles, expected to include an emphasis on university-wide involvement, an evidence-based and collaborative approach to Charter development and implementation, and a recognition of diversity both among HEIs and their varying approaches to support, as well as within the student population and individual needs. To book:


21 January 2020: Session 1: Setting the evaluation strategy, 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.


23 January 2020: Women in HE Conference, ‘Conditions for Change − how can we accelerate change that tackles the treatment and inclusion of women?, Advance HE

Despite comprising the majority of staff working in UK higher education, women remain underrepresented at the most senior levels and the challenge to increase the pace of change remains. Advance HE’s inaugural Advance HE Women in HE Conference will provide insight into solutions that work to address the barriers we have identified, through our extensive research, knowledge and understanding, in achieving step change across HE in relation to all gender equality issues through practical exploration of the known and hidden challenges across a range of intersectional themes relating to women in HE. The day will build on our expertise in this area drawn from our leadership of the Athena Swan Charter, championing women’s leadership development, including Aurora, equal pay and supporting the extension of women represented on university boards – all to encourage and support change across the sector.

Advance HE CEO, Alison Johns, has written a blog in which she highlights particular areas of disparity.


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.


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

Sessions will include:

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.

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.



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.


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.


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

Date for your diary. Introducing the UCAS tick box for estranged applicants and supporting estranged students and their teachers/advisers pre-entry to HE

More information to follow in early 2020. 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.


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.


22-23 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.
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.


7-9 July 2019: Teaching and Learning Conference 2020, AdvanceHE, Bedfordshire

The Teaching and Learning Conference 2020 will return on 7-9 July 2020 in Bedfordshire and will focus on Teaching in the spotlight: Creative thinking to enhance the student experience: From curriculum design to student success.

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.