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


  WP Events for your diaries

                                                      CALENDAR OF EVENTS


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


20 November 2019: Making Inclusion work: higher education is where #Ibelong @UOS, University of Osnabrueck

The #Ibelong project is working to improve the success of diverse students by piloting and evaluating evidence-informed interventions. At Edge Hill University we held a Diversity Dialogue Day with 300+ new primary education students on their second day, sharing staff and existing student experiences of diversity and success, developing networks, reflecting on experience, taking photos of belonging, and sharing information with personal tutors in innovative and safe ways.   The event on 20th November will share our experiences (facilitated by three Edge Hill students), plus a keynote address by Pravini Baboeram ‘Understanding Diversity and Inclusion: Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable’, workshops about the other interventions, and research evidence about diversity and belonging.
The conference is free of charge, but you will have to cover your own travel costs.  (It is quite affordable to go by train to Osnabruck).
Further information is available here, or by contacting colleagues at the University of Osnabrueck


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:


28 November 2019: webinar – Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations, AbilityNet

Do you want to join the discussion about Web Accessibility Regulations for UK HE and Public Sector? This latest in AbilityNet’s series of free webinars providing help and advice to meet the requirements of the regulations and improve your disabled students’ digital learning experience – it takes place on 28 November 2019 13:00 pm.

If you can’t join the live webinar, AbilityNet will send a link to the recording afterwards.

As well as providing regular updates to give the latest news and advice relating to the regulations, on this webinar we will have Richard Walker of the University of York joining us to talk about the journey to compliance at his institution. There will be a question and answer section with Richard and AbilityNet experts, and at the request of attendees of previous sessions we are proportioning more time to this in the upcoming webinar – join the discussion!


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:


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.