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



WP Events for your diaries


Advance notice Action on Access events


21 February 2017: Developing your Access Agreement for 2018-19, Woburn House, London

This one-day conference hosted by OFFA, Action on Access and Universities UK timed to coincide with the publication of OFFA’s strategic guidance to institutions on developing 2018-19 access agreements offers a key opportunity to hear from OFFA staff.

Conference keynote speeches, a panel discussion and a Q&A session where you can ask questions and seek clarification and practical, topic-based workshop sessions involving OFFA staff and covering a range of subjects will provide a focused look at of the 2018-19 strategic guidance and the support that OFFA can give you as you develop your agreement. Further information:

11 April 2017: Final What Works? conference, Cavendish Conference Centre, Marylebone, London W1G 9DT

The conference will launch, share and discuss the findings and outcomes of the What Works? Student retention and success change programme, and will feature reports from the 13 institutions involved; read a summary of key outcomes, findings and messages at You will also be able to hear from institutions outside of the programme who are implementing changes in their institution inspired by What Works?.
The What Works? Student retention and success second phase and change programme is a Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative working with Action on Access, the Higher Education Academy and 13 UK universities across 43 discipline areas. The programme examined what works in terms of retention and success and, crucially, developed understanding about how to implement change.

Further information and to book your place:


15 December 2016: Apprenticeships and trainees, Manchester

This CAPITA event provides the ideal forum to ensure your apprenticeship programme maximises value for money for your organisation, and will cover key topics including: Encouraging the growth of local apprenticeship schemes through better partnership working; Implementing an efficient traineeship by utilising existing budgets; Establishing marketing strategies that attract talented and valuable candidates; Selecting the correct training provider for your needs; Integrating apprentices into your wider organisation and successfully achieving buy-in from all staff into the apprenticeship scheme

Further information:

17 January 2017: Informing prospective student choice, Westminster Briefing, London

An up-to-date brief of the changes and the impact on the sector; to explore how you can provide better information, advice & guidance for prospective student with a focus on outcomes for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups throughout the day. HEFCE’s latest research analysis has found that levels of satisfaction vary significantly amongst BME groups, with BME graduates more likely to regret their degree choices. Some key issues:

TEF assessment framework: how will this support student decision-making? Discuss how to use Unistats, KIS and league tables to best effect? Consider the importance of student representation systems in student choice. Explore the rationality of student choice when making decisions. Learn what are other institutions are doing in this area. Find out how best to present information to potential applicants and those helping them and put underrepresented & disadvantaged groups at the heart of your work in informing student decision. Further information:


26 January 2017: Improving disabled students’ experience – funding, facilities and support services, Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, London

This seminar will explore the challenges and opportunities for improving disabled students’ experience in Higher Education. It follows Government reforms to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – scheduled to take effect in the 2016-17 academic year – which include new restrictions to eligibility for financing non-medical help, and changes to the funding for specialist accommodation and equipment for disabled students.

Sessions will focus on the initial impact of these changes and how universities can respond to maintain effective support for disabled students, as well as best practice in improving campus accessibility and next steps for policy and practice in order to further widen participation for prospective students with disabilities.

Speakers include: Sarah Howls, Head of Student Opportunity, HEFCE; Professor Geoff Layer, Vice Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton and Chair, The Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group and Paul Williams, Deputy Director, Student Finance Policy, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills; Chris Brill, Equality Challenge Unit; Dr John Conway, Royal Agricultural University   Association of Disability Practitioners; John Lamb, British Assistive Technology Association; Mei-Yee Man Oram, ARUP and Liz Sayce, Disability Rights UK

Further information:


27 January 2017: Next steps for transforming caring for people with learning disabilities: funding, integration and community care, Westminster Health Forum

Guest of Honour: Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer, NHS England

With local Transforming Care Partnerships (TCPs) beginning their work, this timely seminar will provide an opportunity to assess future policy priorities for people with learning disabilities across health and social care.
Delegates will consider the implementation of NHS England’s Building the Right Support plan, with local plans proposed by TCPs – collaborations between Clinical Commissioning Groups, local authorities and specialised commissioners – due to be assessed against countrywide objectives, with the aim of, by 2019, reducing the reliance on inpatient care and establishing a national service delivery model for commissioners and providers.
Further sessions focus on the impact of population-based healthcare, via new Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), on care for people with learning disabilities, the impact of new inspection methodologies announced in the CQC’s five-year strategy on the regulation of care, and priorities for personalising care in light of the national rollout of the Integrated Personal Commissioning programme - as well as improving access to primary care for people with learning disabilities. Further information:


31 January 2017: Supporting Student Mental Health and Wellbeing, Westminster Briefing, London

This is the key event to update your knowledge regarding student mental health & wellbeing, develop a greater understanding of new developments in this area, network with others in a similar role to you and gain new ideas. The event aims to examine the current state of student mental health provision in Higher Education and discuss how to best support students.

Further information:


9 February 2017: Promoting competition and regulating the higher education market, Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, Central London

This conference examines the future shape of the Higher Education market, including:

the proposed liberalisation of access to the ‘university’ title and degree awarding powers;

the latest trends and developments in the HE market, including the growth of HE in FE and the conversion of satellite campuses into full, independent universities; attracting new providers into the HE sector including established overseas universities; and the market impact of the Teaching Excellence Framework and the removal of the student number cap.

Speakers include: Jenny Bradley, Assistant Director, Higher Education Market Reform, Department for Education; Ian Kimber, Director of Quality Development, QAA; Sorana Vieru, NUS and John Widdowson, Association of Colleges.

Further information:


9 February 2017: Priorities for apprenticeships in Wales, Policy Forum for Wales Keynote Seminar, Central Cardiff

This seminar will focus on the future of apprenticeship in Wales; including improving quality, take up and funding availability. It follows the Welsh Government’s pledge to deliver an additional 100,000 Apprenticeship starts over the 5-year Assembly term, and comes in light of on-going discussions over how the new UK-wide Apprenticeship Levy will impact Wales and the development of new frameworks for the standards and assessment of apprenticeships in Wales.

Speakers include: Julie James AM, Minister for Skills and Science, Welsh Government;

Fiona Argent, Cardiff Metropolitan University; Jenine Gill, Little Inspirations Day Nursery and a senior speaker confirmed from National Training Federation Wales

Conference areas for discussion include: Strategies for effectively promoting the apprenticeship route to young people; engaging employers with the design and delivery of apprenticeship programmes; future funding arrangements for apprenticeships in Wales; and vocational progression routes and the role of higher and degree apprenticeships.

Further information:


10 February 2017: Stand Alone conference: Outreach and Transition to HE, Liverpool John Moores University
Reaching estranged students through pre-entry through outreach and supporting
them in the transition to higher education is a challenge. There are more
questions than answers across the HE sector so we are asking our students to
help us find out how we can reach estranged young people with the right
information, advice and guidance.
Alongside the student panel which will be the main focus of the conference,
Becca Bland, Stand Alone’s CEO, will talk about the impact of homelessness and
how to work with those affected. The agenda will also include contributions from
SPA and from university / community outreach colleagues (details tbc).
The conference is part of the Stand Alone Pledge training conference programme
to help higher education institutions develop their support for estranged
students across the student lifecycle.
Please contact me, Susan Mueller, Project Director, if you have any queries
regarding the conference or the Pledge:

Further information:


17 February 2017: Engaging Communities, AMOSSHE winter conference 2017, Manchester

To help Student Services leaders and practitioners engage with communities, AMOSSHE, the Student Services Organisation, is hosting a conference to explore how we can engage institutional colleagues and stakeholders to create effective relationships, and how we can create engaging communities for our students that enhance their learning experience and promote retention and success. The conference will feature a range of AMOSSHE member-led sessions showcasing innovative practice and strategy, as well as inspiring keynote presentations from key voices in the sector.

AMOSSHE member-led sessions include: How engaged is your student community? (Anglia Ruskin University); King’s Community Ambassadors: building a sense of belonging and community through student support and engagement (King’s College London); Living and learning: supporting extra-curricular learning in university accommodation (University of Sheffield); Supporting staff to support students: enabling our students to realise and reach their full potential (University of Southampton). Our first confirmed keynote is Sara Fernandez (Executive Director, Student Hubs). Student Hubs supports students to tackle social challenges, learn about issues and connect.

Further information:


21 February 2017: Developing your Access Agreement for 2018-19, Woburn House, London

If you’re going to be involved in creating an access agreement for 2018-19, this one-day conference is designed to help you do that. Hosted by OFFA, Action on Access and Universities UK, it’s timed to coincide with the publication of OFFA’s strategic guidance to institutions on developing 2018-19 access agreements, and offers a key opportunity to hear from OFFA staff and to discuss:

  • the focus of the 2018-19 strategic guidance
  • OFFA’s approach to and expectations around 2018-19 access agreements
  • policy focus and strategic priorities for OFFA
  • the challenges and opportunities facing universities and colleges in their access agreements
  • the support that OFFA can give you as you develop your agreement.

There will be keynote speeches, a panel discussion and a question and answer session where you can ask questions and seek clarification.

There will also be practical, topic-based workshop sessions involving OFFA staff and covering a range of subjects which will include: evaluation of outreach activities; an introduction to the financial support toolkit; engaging in school sponsorship and exploring how to get the relationship started. In the workshops you’ll be able to hear about and share examples of effective practice, learning from and sharing knowledge with people working on access agreements in other institutions. Further information:


22 February 2017: Where next for apprenticeships policy in England?, a Westminster Employment Forum conference, London

This conference will discuss the future for this area of policy in England, informed by the findings from the inquiry on apprenticeships, currently being undertaken by the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, and of the National Audit Office report , which found that the Government has not set out how it will use this increase in apprenticeship numbers to deliver improvement in productivity.
Delegates will consider the further action that can be taken to improve the quality of apprenticeships, following concerns expressed by stakeholders and Ofsted, as well as the key priorities for the new Institute for Apprenticeships, which will regulate apprenticeships and ensure that standards respond to the changing needs of business. Further sessions will consider key challenges surrounding apprenticeship funding, ahead of the introduction of the apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, and the next steps that can be taken to change the culture and prestige of apprenticeships in England, and build on the Get in, go far campaign.

Keynote addresses from Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers; senior speakers confirmed from the National Audit Office and the Department for Education; Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute and others. Further information:


23 February 2017: Women in the workplace: careers advice, the gender pay gap and women in executive management, central London

At this Westminster Forum conference key topics for discussion will include the gender pay gap; tackling sex and maternity discrimination; improving the availability of high-quality childcare provision and the challenges for increasing the proportion of women in leadership and executive management positions within the British economy. Further sessions will focus on careers education, particularly how best to increase female participation in apprenticeships and STEM subjects, and how to inspire more young women to pursue careers in under-represented professions, including in public office.
Discussion will be informed by the findings of the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiries on the Gender Pay Gap, Women in executive management, Pregnancy and maternity discrimination, Women in the House of Commons and on the Impact of Brexit on the equalities agenda.
Further information:


1 March 2017: Supporting Mature Students in Higher Education, London

Attend this Westminster Briefing event to understand how your HEI can widen access, retention and success for mature learners.  This is the chance to rethink your approach to retention and belonging for mature students and hear the latest good practice from other HEIs working to provide effective support for mature learners throughout their student journey.

Key issues to be addressed: a whole-institution approach to supporting mature students through their HE journey; adapting provisions of support for students with different additional commitment; strategies for improving retention and sense of belonging for mature student; flexibility when teaching; delivering effective guidance for students who enter through non-traditional routes; representing mature student’s views; attracting & retaining part-time mature students… Further information:


2 March 2017: TSS The Skills Summit, London

The seventh annual Skills Summit 2017 gives you the chance to hear post-Brexit opinion on the future of Apprenticeships, technical education and workplace learning. Register places for your organisation before July 18th and receive a 10% discount. Take part in over 15 sessions and develop your understanding of:

Apprenticeships: the implementation and impact of reforms

Post-16 education and training: how will the Skills Plan affect you?

Learning and development: how can we use digital more effectively?

Speakers include:

David Hill, Director of Apprenticeships, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills / Department for Education

Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, AELP

David Hughes, Chief Executive, AoC

Further information:


9 March 2016: Using the UK research base to support evidence-based policymaking, London

This conference will bring together key policymakers from across Whitehall, the devolved administrations and local authorities with stakeholders from the UK research community to discuss ways of improving the use of research to inform policymaking. It comes as the next Research Excellence Framework cycle is expected to increase the weight of the ‘impact’ criteria from 20 to 25% and follows REF 2014 results which showed “informing government policy” was the most common type of impact, followed by “supporting Parliamentary scrutiny”.
Sessions will examine efforts to improve the use of research in Government including What Works Centres, using Randomised Controlled Trials and behavioural economics, as well as how academics can deliver ‘impact’ through providing evidence to Select Committees, responding to Government reviews and building effective working relationships with officials. Delegates will also discuss how the use of data and evidence can be encouraged at a local government level as well.
Dr Chandrika Nath, Deputy Director, Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology and a senior speaker confirmed from the Cabinet Office to deliver keynote addresses at this conference along with others,
Further information:


21 March 2017: Next steps for widening participation: key target groups, reforming admissions processes and best practice in outreach, central London

This Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar will bring out new thinking on policy aimed at widening participation in Higher Education, and assess latest initiatives and examples of best practice. Delegates will discuss challenges and options in light of the Government’s goal of doubling the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds from 14% to 28%,and increasing by 20% the numbers of students from BAME backgrounds – both by 2020. It also comes with considerable change planned to post-16 vocational qualifications, and as HEFCE prepares to oversee the launch of a new Collaborative Outreach Programme which will see consortia of universities and other groups leading efforts to realise the Government’s targets.

Keynote speaker include Sarah Howls, Head of Student Opportunity, HEFCE, Sam Baars, Director of Research, LKMco; Angela Nartay, Policy Officer, UCU and Eliza Selley, Associate Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team.

Key areas for discussion include: the current state of social mobility in HE; mature students; introduction of maintenance loans for part-time students; changes to post-16 vocational and technical qualifications and the opportunities presented by university involvement in Degree Apprenticeships;

Further information:


30 March 2016: Graduates and the labour market – improving employability, addressing skills gaps and latest recruitment practices, London

This Westminster Higher Education Forum conference will bring out latest thinking and initiatives to improve graduate employment outcomes. Delegates will examine challenges in the graduate labour market, new trends in recruitment practices, and how universities can better work with business to improve employability of undergraduates.
It comes with the Teaching Excellence Framework – which includes graduate employment rates and earnings as key metrics – being introduced in 2017 and is also timed follow the review of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, due to conclude in early 2017. Rachel Hewitt, Senior Data Policy & Governance Analyst, HESA will be delivering a keynote address on the outcomes of the DLHE review. Nicola Turner, National Lead for Skills Strategy and Policy, HEFCE has agreed to give a keynote among others.
Delegates will discuss how universities can better support students to improve CVs through extra-curricular activities whilst at university, work with industry to grow work experience opportunities, and successfully embed employability into the curriculum. Further sessions will focus on how universities respond to changing interview practices, the impact on social mobility of ‘blind’ application processes as well as the issue of unpaid internships – and Nicola Turner, National Lead for Skills Strategy and Policy, HEFCE will be discussing the role of Degree Apprenticeships and the likely impact of the Apprenticeship Levy on graduate recruitment. Further information:


5-6 April 2017: Making a Difference to Student Success – Inspiring Students Through Advising and Personal Tutoring, UKAT Annual Conference, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds

The conference aims to explore current trends and approaches for encouraging student attainment, and to promote the sharing of experiences and innovative practice. A date for your diary and Proposals are sought on the theme of Advising and Personal Tutoring for Success, Attainment and Retention. Registration is now open.

Closing date for submissions: 16 December 2016

Further information:


11 April 2017: Final What Works? conference, Cavendish Conference Centre, Marylebone, London W1G 9DT

This one-day event from the Higher Education Academy and Action on Access will:

  • publish and discuss the findings and outcomes of the What Works? Student retention and success programme, Phase 2, and
  • hear from institutions outside of the programme inspired by What Works? Phase 1.

The conference will launch, share and discuss the findings and outcomes of the What Works? Student retention and success change programme, and will feature reports from the 13 institutions involved; read a summary of key outcomes, findings and messages at You will also be able to hear from institutions outside of the programme who are implementing changes in their institution inspired by What Works? Phase 1.
The What Works? Student retention and success second phase and change programme is a Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative working with the Higher Education Academy, Action on Access and 13 UK universities across 43 discipline areas. The programme examined what works in terms of retention and success and, crucially, developed understanding about how to implement change.

Further information and to book your place:


4-6 July 2017: Generation TEF: Teaching in the spotlight, Higher Education Academy annual conference 2017, University of Manchester

Structured over three days, the conference will provide a platform for higher education professionals to share their experiences, ideas, research and good practice in a community of their peers and learn from internationally respected speakers. A new conference format allows for cross-fertilisation of pedagogies, with a day dedicated to addressing sector priorities, such as retention, assessment and employability, sandwiched between two days of discipline-led activities. The Annual Conference is an ideal opportunity to meet like-minded peers, build networks, and expand your knowledge of sector issues and innovations, thus strengthening your own professional practice and reputation.

New for 2017 is the introduction of the HEA Annual Debate and dinner. We will be crowdsourcing ideas for the proposed motion from our communities and networks in the coming months.

Further information:


6 and 7 July 2017: Ready for retention: effective systems for transition and student success, University South Wales Conference Centre – Pontypridd campus, (Treforest).

The conference is hosted by the HEA Wales Transition, Retention and Attainment Programme. We expect lively discussion across the conference’s main themes of:

  • The design and management of holistic approaches to transition, retention and attainment
  • Curriculum development and innovation – strengthening student engagement
  • Using, sharing and developing data.

The closing date for applications to present at the conference has passed but a small number of attendance places are still available. If you share an interest in the focus of the TRA programme or the conference themes above and are keen to engage in conversation and deb