Higher education widening participation

In September 2012 the Minister launched Access to Success, the strategy for widening participation in higher education.

Widening participation strategy

Widening Participation in higher education is a key priority for the Department. In higher education it facilitates and increases the participation of those groups which are currently under represented in HE, in particular students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The aim of widening participation is to ensure that all those who have the ability to benefit from higher education have the opportunity to do so. Higher education and the opportunities that it brings should be available to all, regardless of their background.

The Department continues to address the issue of widening participation in higher education through a number of broad policy directions and a number of specific actions.

Expression of Interest for Widening Participation Stakeholder Engagement Network

The Department for the Economy has launched an Expression of Interest for Widening Participation Stakeholder Engagement Network.

They are reviewing the future approach to Widening Participation in Higher Education. We believe that your valuable expertise and insights will greatly contribute to our mission of promoting equal access and opportunities in education.

We would like to invite you to put forward your expression of interest in becoming a member of the Widening Participation Stakeholder Engagement Network.

Stakeholder participation will not only help shape our widening participation efforts but also create a meaningful impact in the lives of individuals who are currently under-represented in Higher Education.

To express your interest in participating please click on the link below which will direct you to the Expression of Interest questionnaire on Citizen Space:

Expression of Interest for Widening Participation Stakeholder Engagement Network -  Citizen Space

All the responses will be collated and we will correspond directly with those who wish to participate in stakeholder engagement. 

We kindly request that, if you are interested, please submit your Expression of Interest by close of business Wednesday 21st February 2024.

Widening Access and Participation Plans (WAPPs)

In 2006, government introduced new higher education tuition fee arrangements. This included a provision that any institution that decided to raise its full-time undergraduate tuition fees above the standard level was required to have an Access Agreement in place which would outline its provision of student support, including bursaries and outreach activities.

The philosophy behind Access Agreements was that the introduction of higher fees should not have a detrimental effect on widening participation and that institutions are explicitly committed to increasing participation of under-represented groups.

Widening Access and Participation Plans (WAPPs) were introduced in 2013 and are an amalgamation of the old Access Agreements and Widening Participation Strategic Assessments.

WAPPs are submitted to the Department annually by all fee charging institutions to allow for agreement by the Department 12 – 18 months in advance of the proposed fee year. The agreed WAPPs are published on each institutional website once the relevant approvals have been given by the Department.

WAPPs provide a summary of the institution’s WP strategy, observations on the institution’s past achievement against regional benchmarks and a detailed programme of anticipated progress each year towards the institution’s own targets. It should include specific actions and targets for improving representation from each under-represented group in the coming year. As part of the WAPP process the Department also requires commentary from the recognised student body at each of the institutions.

Published Widening Access Participation Plans (WAPPs) 

To access the latest published WAPP for each HE institution, please visit their website.

Further Education Colleges:



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