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


  WP Events for your diaries


                                                      CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Advance information

Please hold in your diaries the date Wednesday 13 November 2019 for …….

Our ninth annual Widening Participation and Student Success Summit: Joining the dots, with Universities UK, which is dedicated to tackling issues surrounding access and participation in higher education. Featuring sector experts and experienced practitioners, it will provide the insight and practical tools for both effectual practice and effective strategy-making. The Summit will give you the opportunity to receive up-to-date briefings on the current issues and regulation surrounding widening participation, as well as an opportunity to discuss with experts and colleagues on how best to drive student access and success.


25th September 2019: presenting research on POLAR4, and how rates of participation at Russell Group universities compare to overall progression to university.

This presentation will report on a project funded by UCL which examines the POLAR4 methodology by breaking down participation rates into higher education by HEI mission group – in this case the Russell Group. We can clearly see that while POLAR4 looks at the entirety of participation into higher education, this is not evenly distributed among all types of institution. This reveals geographic areas which may have high overall participation, but very low participation rates into elite institutions.

It will also cover the differences in POLAR measurements and will summarise the problems with using POLAR4 as the sole measure of geographically based widening participation. Instead an approach the combines a basket of measures will be suggested – and these will be explained in a clear no-nonsense way that will enable everyone, even those who don’t have advanced skills in data, to understand which measures should be used for their local widening participation efforts.

Karina Berzins is a Research Fellow with Continuum: the Centre for Widening Participation Policy Studies, based at the University of East London where she previously taught on the Masters of Research. Further info and to book:


10 October 2019:  Working with parents to widen access to higher education, NEON training event, Bristol
It is universally recognised that parents and carers play a key role in influencing the future aspirations and pathways of young people. Often advice given to young people will be potentially out of date and possibly ill informed. Therefore parental engagement has a key role to play in widening participation. This course will: Investigate how an individual’s own educational experience may impact upon the information, advice and guidance (IAG) that they impart; Draw on the experiences of participants to consider and understand the challenges in effectively engaging parents/carers in widening participation activities; Critically evaluate a number of strategies for parental/carer engagement and develop an understanding of the types of activities that could work best in their own institution; Devise a series of activities to be delivered within their own institution, organisation or NCOP.

Spaces at this event are strictly limited so early booking is advised


14 October 2019: Supporting disabled students - widening participation, improving student success and accessible campus design, Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference, central London

This seminar will examine priorities for improving support for disabled students in English universities.  The agenda includes discussion on practical steps that can be taken to deliver higher rates of disabled student participation, moving towards a more inclusive curricula through improving learning and teaching environments, and and compliance with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator’s Good Practice Framework.  Discussion will focus on the practical steps that can be taken by providers to deliver higher rates of disabled student participation, retention and success, as well as considering what further steps Government could take to support the sector in achieving these aims; on the Disabled Students Allowance and HEI responsibilities; disabled student experience and progression within university and into employment, and campus design, reasonable adjustments and treatment of complaints.

Speakers include in this seminar keynote addresses from: Greg Boone, Team Leader, Disabled Students’ Allowance, Department for Education and Christine Child, Adjudication Manager, Office of the Independent Adjudicator; Rabia Lemahieu, Disability and Skills Manager, Disability Rights UK; Dr Nasser Siabi, Chief Executive, Microlink; Steve Tyler, Director of Assistive Technology, Leonard Cheshire and Professor Val Williams, Emiritus Professor, Noah Fry Centre for Disabled Studies, University of Bristol


17 October 2019: One Awards 2019 Higher Education Admissions Fair for Access to HE Students, Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Since 2016, when we hosted the first HE Admissions Fair for Access to HE Students in the North of England, the event has grown year on year.  We have received really positive feedback from students, tutors and exhibitors on the fantastic opportunities it provides and over 75% of students learnt something they didn’t know previously or discovered a new Higher Education Institution or Undergraduate course they were interested in. We are delighted to continue to facilitate this important event which offers HE Institutions the opportunity to promote their courses, advice and support services to Access to HE students. The event will be promoted across all Access to HE providers in the North of England and information on the event will reach over 2500 students studying the Access to HE Diploma. We are inviting all HEI’s to exhibit at the event.  The cost for exhibiting at the event is £200.00 per stand.  Further information:


31 October 2019: Reforming higher technical education in England – Level 4 and 5 qualifications, funding, regulation and the introduction of Institutes of Technology, Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference, London

This conference will look at the next steps for the reform of higher technical (Level 4 and 5) education in England – including the future for qualifications, funding, regulation and the role of new Institutes of Technology. It will be an opportunity for stakeholders and policymakers to discuss themes emerging from the Department for Education’s recently announced consultation on plans to improve the quality of higher technical education in England (which includes Foundation Degrees, HNDs, HNCs, CertHE as well as Level 4 and 5 diplomas, certificates and NVQs).

Keynote speakers include:

  • Michael Davies, Deputy Director, Technical Qualifications Development and Regulation, Department for Education
  • Dr Arti Saraswat, Senior Policy Manager, Higher Education, Association of Colleges
  • Lucy Sydney, Director of Strategic Relationships for VTQ, Ofqual
  • and a senior speaker confirmed from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

There will also be case studies with experience of the recently-announced Institutes of Technology from:

  • Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter - who played a leading role in the bid to establish the South West Institute of Technology
  • and Clare Riley, FE and HE Engagement Manager, Microsoft - who will be contributing to the establishment of the Institute of Digital Technology at Bletchley Park.

To book online


4 November 2019: Student Experience Conference 2019, University of Derby Enterprise Centre

The Student Experience Conference themes are: Ensuring success for a diverse student body; Supporting success over the student journey; Communicating for success The finalised agenda will follow, but we expect a varied programme of workshop and presentations including: Partnership working with students; Embedding co-creation in communication; Effective approaches to transition, Widening participation across the student journey; Approaches to eliminate attainment gaps. Baasit Siddiqui – Derby Alumni, educational speaker and regular resident on award-winning show Gogglebox, will open the conference with a keynote address. To embed our ethos of students as partners all presentations will be co-delivered (or exclusively delivered) by students
6 November 2019: ‘Engaging BTEC Students to succeed in higher education’, NEON Access Academy Training day, Manchester.
A descriptive statistical analysis of institutional admissions and progression data – carried out as part of the HEFCE funded project ‘Transforming Transitions‘ – showed that the highest proportion of students who did not progress to the second year of their undergraduate course had entered with a BTEC qualification. What do widening access practitioners need to do to change this?
During the training day, delegates will examine: the needs of BTEC Students; what BTEC Student success looks like – their outcomes; how to successfully reach and market higher education to BTEC Students; differentiated approaches once BTEC Students are in higher education; ensuring a successful transition to higher education; improving the retention and success of BTEC Students.


13 November 2019: Action on Access’s Access 9th annual Higher Education and Student Success Summit: Joining the dots, Woburn Conference Centre, London

Our ninth annual Widening Participation and Student Success Summit, with Universities UK, which is dedicated to tackling issues surrounding access and participation in higher education. Featuring sector experts and experienced practitioners, it will provide the insight and practical tools for both effectual practice and effective strategy-making. The Summit will give you the opportunity to receive up-to-date briefings on the current issues and regulation surrounding widening participation, as well as an opportunity to discuss with experts and colleagues on how best to drive student access and success.


19 November: ‘Developing a progressive curriculum of outreach activities’, NEON event, Birmingham

This Access Academy Training day will explore the advantages of adopting a more learner-centred, progressive programme of widening participation that responds to the needs of learners at the various stages of their higher education journey.
Participants will:
discuss the benefits and challenges of a learner centred, progressive approach to widening participation

  • explore the different partnerships needed to ensure such an approach can succeed
  • increase their own understanding of the progression needs of learners
  • gain an understanding of the concept of ‘learner outcomes’ and how to apply these to a progressive curriculum
  • identify priorities and plan for their implementation within their organisation.


20 November 2019: The impact and challenges on students, having been schooled (up to secondary age) overseas, undertaking higher education in the UK, The Access Participation and Success (APS) team (formerly Widening Access and Success), Open University

This OU free seminar (10.15-13.30), APS will explore:
What are the barriers in UK higher education facing students schooled overseas: a different take on the attainment gap?
Addressing the BAME awarding gap is a priority for institutions of higher education, but little attention has been given to schooling overseas. Are there differences by country of origin? How important is the student’s first language if it was not English? What is the impact of race?
We will hear personal experiences from students alongside contributions from academics and practitioners. We will look at research, highlight challenges and look at initiatives to support success. Further information from


22 November 2019: Degree apprenticeships, NEON Summit, central London.

Degree apprenticeships are a key qualification to facilitate widening access, however the profile of degree apprenticeships needs to be raised and it is vital that practitioners are able to give prospective students high quality information, advice and guidance about their options.
This NEON summit will allow widening access practitioners to hear from policy makers, other practitioners and employers. It will enable us to discuss the progress of degree apprenticeships so far and how we can raise awareness of this important qualification amongst those currently under-represented in higher education.
Delegates will:

  • Gain an understanding of the opportunities, and challenges, degree apprenticeships offer potential students from groups traditionally under-represented in higher education
  • Learn from recent research about the effectiveness of degree apprenticeships in widening access
  • Explore ways to raise awareness of degree apprenticeships through examples of best practice
  • Hear why degree apprenticeships are a key qualification for businesses.
    Places for this event are strictly limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.


27 November 2019: The Engineering Professors’ Council Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2019, University of Wales, Trinity St David

The EPC’s annual Recruitment and Admissions Forum is the must-attend event for staff at all levels in engineering departments who share the responsibility for attracting, selecting, admitting and retaining students.

Highlights of this year’s programme include:

  • New data and analysis on student admissions patterns in Engineering, revealing previously unexplored trends (drawn from Dr Tim Bullough’s ground-breaking research, which he will present).
  • Professor Vikki Boliver, whose work on context admissions has been highly influential on OfS’s guidance on access.
  • Nicola Turner MBE, Head of Access & Participation at the Office for Students, will discuss discipline-focused access activity
  • The latest findings from EPC’s exclusive Enrolment Survey: the first snapshot of 2019/20 recruitment.

Following its success in 2018, delegates are now invited to submit, share and network over recruitment and admissions posters. Poster presentation should focus on one of the four key strands of the forum: Attraction; Admissions; Recruitment; Retention.

The delegate fee (£99 non-EPC members, £75 members) will be waived for one delegate per poster where poster submissions are successful. Note that space is limited and submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.

27 November 2019: Priorities for tackling racial harassment and improving the BAME experience in higher education
, Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, Central London

This seminar will examine priorities for tackling racial harassment and improving the BAME experience in higher education. The agenda in summary:

  • Findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry;
  • Unpacking the legal and moral duty of care towards ethnic minority students – navigating between free speech and hate speech, managing behaviour off campus, and monitoring social media;
  • Reporting harassment and seeking redress – improving awareness and accessibility of support structures, and clarifying institutional disciplinary procedures for dealing with harassment; and
  • Racial equality in higher education – identifying barriers to equality, improving student experience and closing the attainment gap.

Speakers include: Christina Barnes, Senior Principal, Inquiries and Intelligence, Equality and Human Rights Commission; Georgina Calvert-Lee, Head of UK Practice and Senior Counsel, McAllister Olivarius; Géraldine Dufour, Head of Counselling, University of Cambridge and Chair, Universities & Colleges, BACP; Professor Deborah Johnston, Pro-Director, Teaching and Learning, SOAS University of London; Dr Zainab Khan, Faculty Academic Director, Student Experience, Faculty of Business & Law, University of the West of England; Esther Offenberg, President-Elect, Union of Jewish Students; Dr Trish Reid, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching), Kingston University London and Homa Wilson, Partner, Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors. To book:


5 December 2019: Growing participation and improving diversity in Apprenticeships in England, Westminster Employment Forum policy conference, central London

This seminar aims to assess the next steps that can be taken to improve apprenticeship take-up in England, in the context of concerns that the government target of 3 million starts may not be achieved - as well as questions about how industry, training providers, government and other stakeholders can realise the aim to improve uptake amongst under-represented and disadvantaged groups, with Government targeting an increase of 20% BAME starts by 2020.

The conference programme will include: improving participation and diversity in the Apprenticeships programme; driving growth in apprenticeship starts – ensuring better regional coverage, tackling STEM skills gaps and utilising the Apprenticeship levy effectively; improving participation amongst under-represented and disadvantaged groups and low skilled workers; changing perceptions of apprenticeships and the ‘Fire it Up’ campaign; regional disparities – assessing progress and setting direction for the ‘5 Cities Project’; the ‘Opportunities through apprenticeships’ project – lessons from the pilots.

Delegates will also discuss the collaboration needed between employers, schools, colleges and universities, and with local government, to focus provision, and increase take-up.

Speakers include: Kathryn Porter, Vice-Chair, Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network and Director, Youth Strategy, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide; John Banks, Apprenticeship Delivery Manager, Lloyds Banking Group; Dominique Unsworth, SME Apprenticeship Ambassador and Chief Executive Officer, Resource Productions. To book a place:


11 December 2019: Lifelong learning: Preparing For Our Future World, HELLIN 2019 Conference, Waterford Institute of Technology, Health Sciences Building, Cork Road Campus

The Higher Education Lifelong Learning in Ireland Network (HELLIN) is an all island body that advocates for the interests of the adult and mature student populations in universities and institutes of technology across the island North and South. Its aim is to inform policy relating to all aspects of adult education and lifelong learning whether these be Workplace or Work-based Learning, Continuing Professional Development, Recognition of Prior Learning, Adult and Community Education and older learners.

The Organising Committee is now issuing a Call for Papers and Poster presentations – see in What’s Wanted below. Submission of abstracts deadline is 30 September 2019. The conference web site.


11 December 2019: Women in the workplace – returnships, intersectionality and reassessing the gender pay gap, Westminster Business Forum policy conference, London

This conference will focus on the next steps for policy and organisational practice in breaking down barriers for women looking to enter or re-enter the workplace, and in closing the gender pay gap. We expect the agenda to include examples of best practice from businesses, with an emphasis on intersectional approaches that span multiple aspects of diversity.

Delegates will examine the practicalities of an intersectional approach which takes into account the multiple or overlapping barriers that women may be facing in a wider variety of workplaces, along with the implementation and eight key challenges of the roadmap.

Keynote contributions:

  • Hampton-Alexander Review: next steps for improving representation - with Denise Wilson, Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review
  • Meaningful representation, and ensuring the influence and impact of women in the workplace - with Professor Sue Vinnicombe, Professor of Women and Leadership Strategy, Cranfield School of Management
  • Best practice, cultural change and the role of legislation in achieving gender equality: a case study from Iceland - with His Excellency Mr Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson, Ambassador, Embassy of Iceland in London
  • And Priorities and areas of focus for tackling the gender pay gap - with Gillian Unsworth, Head, Gender Pay Gap Reporting, Government Equalities Office.

Panel sessions:

  • Breaking down barriers to leadership – mentoring, returnship programmes and the importance of building networks; and
  • Changing workplace cultures – best practice for combating stereotypes, ensuring an intersectional approach and assessing the use of NDAs.
  • Tackling stereotypes and unconscious bias

Delegates at this seminar will consider practical steps to improve attitudes and tackle unconscious bias in the workplace as well as examples of best practice from businesses in light of increasing concerns about the effect this has on mental health. To book


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:


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.


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.