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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.

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