In this short video, Omar Khan discusses the importance of evidence in driving social change, working in partnership with the higher education sector, and the need to prioritise equality.

A transcript of the conversation with Omar is provided below. 

Why is evidence important in driving social change?

Without effectively understanding a problem, we can’t properly design solutions to it.

The only way to really understand a problem is to have the evidence of the nature, the extent, persistence, and the differences within and across different groups and change over time.

For me, evidence is crucial; for understanding the nature of a current social problem, and for designing the right solutions.

For TASO, it’s the lack of equal opportunities or equal outcomes at higher education institutions but evidence is equally important in terms of designing solutions.

If we’re going to see the kind of change we need in higher education, and in our economy more broadly, we need to ensure that our solutions are evidence-based as well.

How will TASO work with the higher education sector?

At TASO we are not implementing policies, we are assessing what works. It’s absolutely crucial that we work in partnership with universities and higher education providers.

To learn from what they’re doing well, learn from the kinds of interventions that they’re already making, hold them to account and to ensure that those interventions are as effective as they as they could be.

Without working in partnership with universities – administrative teams, Vice Chancellors, widening participation teams, students and employers – TASO’s work would be impossible to do.

So we’re here not to tell people: “you’re not doing a good enough job’ but ask people is that intervention working as you’ve intended?

And if not, how can we help you to understand where that intervention isn’t working as well as it might, and see if there are ways that we could better design that same intervention or consider an alternative intervention that costs the same or gather evidence from other providers who you think you might be able to learn.

What will be key to transforming access and student outcomes in higher education?

People need to think this is an issue that matters.        People need to put this issue at the top of their agenda.

I think in higher education, social mobility, improving access and helping those underrepresented and disadvantaged groups –  whether that’s disabled students, ethnic minority students, working class students, I think there’s recognition that universities need to do more and there’s a commitment to do more.

That commitment is what will make TASO’s research – which needs to be as robust and solid as possible –  and work much easier.  That receptive receiving environment is what’s going to make the change happen in the end and benefit all of students in higher education institutions.