In 2017-18, universities and colleges spent £248.2m on activities to support access to HE for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

But despite the volume of activity taking place, we do not have a good understanding of which approaches are most effective.

  • There are gaps in the evidence base: for some student groups and activities there is simply not much existing research or evaluation.
  • The existing evidence doesn’t focus on the impact of activities: in some cases, we have evidence on the barriers certain groups face to entering HE, but we have less on the actual impact of activities designed to support these students.
  • The existing evidence doesn’t actually show that the activity has an impact: much existing research and evaluation looks at whether students who take part in some activity have better outcomes than other students who don’t. But this approach doesn’t actually tell us whether an activity is effective – see below for more information.

TASO’s research under them 1 is focused on widening access and widening participation interventions which take place pre-entry to university and are typically designed to help disadvantaged and underrepresented students view higher education as a viable option for their future, and help them get a place at an institution on a course of their choice should they wish to pursue that option.

Our focus is on type 3 evidence which helps us understand which interventions and outreach strategies can be demonstrated to have a causal effect on widening participation.

Learn about the evidence for student outreach interventions.

Which option best describes you?

Read our published reports on the effectiveness of widening participation outreach.

Find out about current research we are undertaking within this theme.