OfS funding extension awarded to University of Plymouth-led outreach partnership

Next Steps South West, the University-led consortium of fourteen higher education (HE) providers has received £5.5m to continue for another two years.

Established in January 2017, NSSW is the south west partnership in the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP). The programme has been extended to run until 31 July 2021, following the success of Phase one.

Funded by the Office for Students (OfS), NCOP aims to increase HE progression by students in areas of historically low engagement.

NSSW has championed a collaborative and sustainable outreach model, reaching 13790 unique students, 81 schools/colleges and delivering 4573 interventions to date. NSSW consists of HE providers throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, and has now passed its mid-way review. As the partnership’s lead institution, the University has been awarded £5.5 million to support Phase two. 

As lead, the University will act as a centre point for all regional outreach work, ensuring schools and colleges are able to access transparent and impartial HE outreach from a variety of providers.

Building upon collaborative methods pioneered in Phase one, Phase two (commencing 1 August 2019) will seek to add value to the work that HE providers undertake through their own access and participation plans (APP), in particular work that is best delivered in collaboration. NSSW projects will act as a vehicle for activity on a range of agendas relating to APP, creating a solid infrastructure and culture of collaboration, while providing robust outcome-based evidence to support future APP reporting.

Simon Payne, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, International and Planning said:

“We cannot underestimate the critical importance of outreach in a region known for low HE participation. As the partnership’s lead institution, we encourage diversity and proudly welcome students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Building upon the impact made in Phase one, our collaborative efforts will continue to transform the life chances of young learners throughout the South West.”

Phase two will also build upon NSSW’s infrastructure and network, embedding a local ‘outreach hub’ model throughout the three counties. Running concurrent to NCOP delivery, each partnership will be expected to: a) help teachers and advisors find out about the outreach activity available in an area; b) support schools and colleges in areas of low participation to access higher education.

By combining resource and expertise, the NSSW consortium will continue to ensure an impartial, sustainable and progressive outreach programme, tailored to the unique needs of young people throughout the region. Working together to eliminate barriers to progression, partners are creating a legacy of individualised interventions, broadening horizons and future-proofing the next wave of school and college leavers.

Widening participation

Through our widening participation activity we raise awareness, aspiration and achievement; supporting otherwise under-represented groups to successfully progress to higher education.

Our commitment to widening participation

Our commitments

University of Plymouth has a regional, national and international reputation for its widening participation (WP) work. Our commitment is reflected in the University's ambition, 'raising aspiration and driving engagement', outlined in the University's Strategy 2020.

Our approach to WP is articulated in our interim Widening Participation Strategic Statement (WPSS) for 2012-13 and 2013-14 and embodied in our Access Agreements. It's a targeted approach focused on groups who are and have been historically under-represented in higher education. The strategy focuses primarily on three priority target groups, those disadvantaged by:

  • socio-economic class
  • disability
  • childhood experience in care. 

Our broader strategy also embraces work related to age, gender and racial equality. In addition it provides for locally based higher education provision in the South West through a large portfolio of higher education level courses available within our partner college network.

Policy and reports

The University's updated interim Widening Participation Strategic Statement (WPSS) for 2012-13 and 2013-14 was submitted to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in April 2013.

The University's Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO) has produced a Horizon Scanning Report: Widening Participation. The report includes:

  • a review of literature
  • examples of good practice throughout the full range of WP activities from outreach, induction and retention to employability.