The future of access and participation in HE – a university-wide commitment

The Office for Students (OfS) is currently consulting on the future of Access and Participation Plans (APPs), which outline the commitments a HE provider is making to support the equality of opportunity for students to access, succeed in and progress from university. 

At Kent we have long recognised the transformational power of an outstanding university experience, and the value that a diverse student body brings to our institution. We also recognise that there are large groups of students who are currently underrepresented within Higher Education (both within Kent, and nationally), due to educational inequalities and structural barriers. It is imperative that we build upon our existing success in widening participation, and continue to provide a higher education experience that is inclusive, supportive and allows students to excel throughout their student journey and beyond. 

Whilst this work is led by the Outreach & Widening Participation team, Student Success and Careers and Employability, it is an institutional-wide commitment with collaboration across all academic divisions and numerous professional service departments. In terms of supporting access, by working in partnership with local schools and colleges, local authorities and other HE providers in Kent and Medway, we are able to support students in a sustained and progressive way to better understand their future options and to make informed choices.  

Our work in this area is wide ranging, innovative and robustly evaluated to ensure we are making demonstrable impact. We regularly contribute to national evaluation evidence, such as a recent research project with TASO (Transforming Outcomes and Student Success) where we welcomed over 130 young people to stay on our campus for the Year 10 and Year 12 Summer Schools. The Outreach work delivered is designed to support the attainment and HE aspirations of learners, ranging from the sponsorship of the University of Kent Academies Trust (UKAT), delivering academic mentoring programmes in local schools, our work with the Care Leaver Progression Partnership, collaborating on the Generation Genome project, innovative divisional outreach activities such as Crime Scene Investigation with LSSJ, to supporting CPD for teachers and advisors.  

Student Ambassadors are vital to all that we do, not only in terms of delivery and to act as inspirational role models to learners who have experienced similar educational journeys, but also in the co-creation of projects, such as the LGBTQ+ mentoring and university insights programme designed for delivered in schools in the local area.  

Anton, a current Student Ambassador who is working on a placement year at UKAT, came to the University from a local partner school. ‘In Sixth Form, my realisation that university was an option for me was in large part a direct result of the fantastic work delivered by Kent at my partner school. The ambassadors inspired me to meet my full potential and equipped me with the tools and information to make it happen. When I joined Kent, I knew instantly that I wanted to get involved in this work and give future generations the same support and opportunities that I was lucky enough to receive’. 

The OfS will be publishing guidance for a new 4-year plan in February 2023, with the commitments to commence in 24/25, and we will be consulting widely with staff and students in due course.  

If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.