What is it? Summer schools are a form of on-campus outreach comprising a range of activities designed to immerse participants in an experience of higher education (HE), including workshops, taster sessions and social activities.

Evidence? There is little causal research on the efficacy of summer schools to widen participation. Recent analysis conducted by TASO in collaboration with the Higher Education Access Tracker suggests that participation in summer schools is associated with higher GCSE grades and HE progression and these results align with existing studies showing that students who attend a summer school express higher confidence and aspiration at the end than at the beginning.

Should HE providers use summer schools to widen participation? Despite associations between summer school participation and positive student outcomes, currently there is insufficient evidence to say that summer schools are an effective tool to widen participation because existing evidence is not ‘causal’ (in other words, it can’t tell us definitively that the intervention is effective). It is plausible that summer schools attract participants who are most likely to go on to HE, regardless of the summer school. Given the time- and resource-intensive nature of summer schools, there is strong case for seeking more information on the efficacy versus other less intensive approaches. TASO is running a research project to produce more evidence on the efficacy of this approach.