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Widening participation

Widening participation

Supporting students from all backgrounds to access, succeed and progress through higher education

We believe that fair access to higher education is a fundamental enabler for social mobility, improving life opportunities and outcomes for individual students, while benefiting the economy and society as a whole.

The University is committed to enabling social mobility through education. We aim to widen participation; raise attainment; contribute to a strong regional skills base; and bridge gaps in retention, progression and success to ensure our students enjoy the best possible outcomes at University and as graduates.

Our strategy is based on the following principles:

  • Diversity, fair access and inclusivity
  • A whole student lifecycle approach
  • Collaboration and partnership
  • Evidence-based practice

We aim to:

  1. Improve access to the University of Exeter and work collaboratively within our region and to better understand and address barriers to social mobility
  2. Address the causes of observable gaps in success and progression for key groups
  3. Enable an inclusive university culture where all can fulfil their potential

Our 2019/20 Access Agreement explains our priorities for widening participation and the work we are undertaking to improve the life chances of students who are under-represented in higher education.

A summary of our work includes:

  • 4,000 pupils a year receiving 17,500 hours of activities designed to improve subject knowledge, build skills and help them make informed choices about higher education.
  • 500 pupils participating in our residential Easter and Summer schools
  • 400 students enrolled this year on our post-16 progression regional pathway
  • Schemes and support for mature students, care leavers, students with mental health issues, disabled students and students who don’t have the support of a family network
  • Pre and post-16 progression programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students
  • Financial support via Access to Exeter bursary and additional bursary and hardship support
  • One to one employability advice, paid internships and international experiences
  • Academic skills support to help widening participation students excel
  • Sponsorship of schools and partnerships with charities providing educational support for inner city pupils
  • Partnership with Exeter Links Schools providing activities, programmes and teacher support

Access and Participation Plan

You can download our full Access and Participation Plan 19/20 (pdf) to find out more detail about our efforts.

We completed a monitoring return for academic year 2019-20 and the OfS has produced this impact report of our work from our submission.

Like the rest of the HE sector we have set a five year Access and Participation Plan 2020/21 to 2024/25 with the HE regulator, the Office for Students, to guide our work over the medium term. This ambitious plan clearly sets out our current context, our strategic aims and objectives, our approach to evaluation and the ten targets we have set to focus our efforts to widen participation and contribute to national Social Mobility ambitions by 2024/25.

Our ten targets have been selected because they are our biggest (statistical) ‘gaps’ in the rates of access, success and progression for target student groups when compared to their peers, or reflect national priorities. They therefore represent our biggest challenges for widening participation, which is why they are so important.

They are:

  • Access target 1. Ratio of entrants who are from POLAR4 Q1&2 v entrants from Q4&5 (target 1:3 from 1:4.7)
  • Access target 2. Ratio of entrants from the South West from POLAR4 Q1&2 v Q4&5 (target 1:1 from 1:1.5)
  • Access target 3. Percentage of entrants from IMD 1&2 and state school (target 13% from 11%)
  • Access target 4. Percentage of BAME entrants (target 15% from 10.1%)
  • Access target 5. Percentage of mature entrants (target 8% from 5.8%)
  • Success target 1. POLAR4 Q1 non-continuation gap v Q5 (target 2.5ppt from 4ppt)
  • Success target 2. Mature non-continuation gap v young (target 7.5ppt from 9ppt)
  • Success target 3. Black student’s attainment gap v White student’s attainment rates (target 12ppt from 20ppt)
  • Success target 4. Disabled students attainment gap v non-disabled student’s attainment rates (target 0.5ppt from 3ppt)
  • Progression target 1: Progression gap for students from the lowest household incomes (those students on our Access to Exeter bursary) v students from a high income background (target 1.5ppt from 3.1ppt)

Access and Participation Plan

You can download our full Access and Participation Plan 2020/21 to 2024/25 (pdf) to find out more detail about our efforts.

In 2022 all HE Providers regulated by the Office for Students were required to make a Access and Participation Plan 20/23 variation and reflect new OfS priorities. We have incorporated these priorities into our approach and our targets remain unchanged. 

Our fee limits remain unchanged 

We have also developed an APP Executive Summary which will be of use to students, parents and advisors.

During 2023 we will develop and submit a new Access and Participation Plan to the OfS to cover years 2024-25 to 2027-28.

You can find out more details about our work to widen participation here.

Widening Participation Student Support

We believe that all students should have equal and fair access to Higher Education. We also recognise that studying at university isn’t as straightforward for everyone, and depending on your financial, personal or ethnic background, you may face additional challenges in both accessing Higher Education and throughout your studies.

We have dedicated staff who are on hand to help students who require additional support, including financial advice and assistance, access to accommodation, learning and career advice, peer support and help with wellbeing. There is a wide array of student support info on our widening participation student support pages

We are committed to supporting students from all walks of life and building an inclusive learning environment. We support equality and diversity across all of our campuses and are proud to welcome all students to our campuses, and are committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ community. We also welcome staff, students and visitors from all faith backgrounds, as well as those from none.

Opportunities to engage in Widening Participation programmes

Academics and PhD students are invited to contribute to our Widening Participation (WP) programmes, activities, and events.

The University of Exeter has a key objective to ensure that all students, from every background, are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education (HE). The central Student Recruitment and WP team organise and run a large programme of face-to-face on-campus, face-to-face off-campus, and virtual WP events targeted at students from a range of underrepresented and often disadvantaged backgrounds in partner schools and colleges across the country. Some of these events offer an insight into the subjects available to study at university and to help participants make informed decisions about their future, while others focus on providing general advice and guidance about higher education and student life. 

The contribution made to these events from members of the academic community is essential for ensuring an exciting and authentic experience of the kind of teaching and research carried out at the University of Exeter. By supporting WP activity, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Showcase and disseminate your research
  • Receive support with adapting outreach materials to suit younger age groups and diverse audiences  
  • Receive support to reach out to a large number of schools from all across the country 
  • Enrich your teaching skills or develop teaching experience
  • Become part of a network of excellent practitioners across the University
  • Share your passion
  • Inspire and work with students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds and make a difference in their lives
The team also have established relationships with a wide range of schools and partner organisations who take part in WP activity.  These relationships are underpinned by data linked to school attainment and student body demographics allowing a refined and evidence based approach to working with particular groups of schools and students.  If you are interested in getting involved in WP activity at the University of Exeter, please submit this registration of interest form.

Guided by College level annual WP Action Plans the team delivers a wide range of events and activities both on campus and in schools with the objective of raising awareness with prospective students of the wide range of subjects taught at the University of Exeter.

Event examples (both face-to-face and virtual) relevant to academics and PhD students may include:

  • Subject taster sessions - lectures/seminars/workshops/conferences - usually based on the speaker's research interests and specialisms 
  • 'Why Study [insert Subject]' talks 
  • Supporting Higher Education events
  • Creation or development of resources
  • Project work sessions - guiding students on a project over multiple sessions

We primarily work with young people aged 13 and above and use a range of delivery models to develop transferable skills and subject knowledge, help schools deliver against their teaching curriculum and ensure participants are making informed decisions about their futures. In certain subject areas we also have activity linked to working with mature and primary aged students.

One of the key ways that we make the University of Exeter stand out in events of this kind is using our cutting edge research and teaching excellence to make the link between subjects and real life. Using this relationship often makes new subjects seem within reach and inspires participants to find out more about the opportunities that can open for them through higher education and beyond.

Examples of feedback from students on academics and PhD students who delivered WP content:

  • "Very brilliant style of teaching, really thought provoking"
  • "The session challenged my perspective and made me think differently"
  • "Amazing quality teaching from the lecturer!"
  • "The lecturer was so enthusiastic! Made me feel so excited about studying at degree level"
  • "The topics were incredibly interesting and the lecturer was really passionate about them which ensured it was enjoyable throughout"
  • "I have learnt more and feel more confident in the prospect of university"

If you are interested in delivering face-to-face and/or virtual sessions or supporting our events please submit this registration of interest form or contact or the relevant college lead, who can provide advice and support about exciting opportunities to get involved with!

Taking a joined up approach to working with schools for the purpose of WP, student recruitment, research dissemination and discipline specific outreach means we can better monitor the effectiveness of activity and share practice to help develop the high quality and exciting opportunities.

Scalability of our activities and being able to take disciplines on the road to a national WP audience is a growing priority for the University and again collaboration allows the team to help focus staff resource on those schools and students who can benefit the most.Exeter. 

In support of this we are inviting academic colleagues, early career researchers and postgraduate students to get in touch if they are writing a funding bid and would like to include WP in relation to research impact and public engagement or if they are at the point of concluding research and have an output to share with schools and WP students. We are also keen to support the operationalising of any wider outreach proposals through WP, including those developed through external partnerships with other universities or education related organisations.

The central WP team can support with evidencing research dissemination, with using data to target the most underrepresented schools and students in particular disciplines and with the logistics of running events and event/resource promotion.

There is also limited funding available to support the creation of resource boxes or interactive sessions that can take individuals own area of specialism to the classroom in a new and innovative way.  Successful proposals that will not just inspire young people to consider studying the subject in future but also show how the work of the University links to the world beyond the campuses and supports participants with their current studies. The subject focus can be as specific as you like but any sessions must allow within them the opportunity to show how the content relates to courses available to study at HE level.  Any proposals should fit within the following parameters and funding provided could go towards either staff time or resources – 

  • Be suitable for a target audience between the ages of 13 to 18
  • Ideally be suitable for delivery both by the proposal lead and also by Student Ambassadors or other members of the WP practitioner community to allow for maximum audience reach
  • Be suitable for varying group sizes, i.e. does not rely on a very small audience for delivery

If you have an idea for a proposal then please complete this Widening Participation Resource Development Project Proposal and return to the relevant College contact as detailed at the bottom of the form. This is an ongoing work stream and therefore there is no formal deadline and we would welcome applications at any stage of the academic year.

If you would like to discuss your research proposal and/or research dissemination, or any other ideas you have for school targeted outreach, then please use the key contacts section below to get in touch with the most relevant member of the team for your discipline.