After a competitive call for partners earlier this year, TASO will be working with Aston University, the University of Birmingham, and King’s College London to develop a better understanding of effective evaluation of multi-intervention outreach – programmes that combine a number of activities into one offering – and mentoring programmes.

This research follows a review of the current evidence on effective practice in widening participation by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) for TASO. The review recommended the development of more robust research on these two approaches. This recommendation was subsequently endorsed as a research priority by TASO’s Theme Working Group for widening participation.

The EPI review identified a need to tease out an understanding of how the separate components of multi-intervention outreach work together and how to embed effective evaluation from the start. It also found a lack of causal evidence from the UK linking mentoring schemes to improvements in access to higher education for disadvantaged and under-represented student groups.

In commissioning this research project, TASO aims to bridge these gaps in the current evidence base by working in partnership with Aston University, the University of Birmingham, King’s College London, along with the broader higher education sector.

Professor Liz Moores, Aston University said:

“This is a really important and timely project for the entire widening participation sector and for Aston University. Through widening participation activities, we aim to create educational opportunities for the students of our region, regardless of their background.To do this well, we need to join the sector in creating a firm evidence base for our outreach work and properly evaluating the impact of what we do.”

Shaheen Barkat, Evaluation Officer, University of Birmingham said:

“The University of Birmingham is delighted to be working with TASO on the evaluation of our flagship pre-16 multi- intervention programme, Forward Thinking. We have been delivering this programme for more than 7 years and this is an excellent opportunity to enhance our own understanding of its impact with learners, as well as contribute to sector knowledge on the best ways to evaluate multi interventions programmes and design effective activity to support widening participation in higher education.”

Jimmy Pickering, Widening Participation Manager Post-16, King’s College London said:

“King’s College London Widening Participation department are collaborating with TASO on evaluating the impact of K+, our flagship post-16 widening participation scheme.We are incredibly excited that this work will put us at the forefront of the evaluation of inequalities in educational access. It is more important than ever that we continue to build the evidence base around what interventions make a positive impact on progression to higher education.”

The project will run from August 2020 to February 2022, with interim results expected in Spring 2021.

All participating providers will hire a TASO-funded research assistant to drive forward the work locally.

Applications for partnering with TASO on this research were assessed by members of our Theme Working Group for widening participation.