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. These include:
- an increase in local HE (and FE) provision;
- the expansion of Foundation Degrees;
- a widening participation premium for students from disadvantaged backgrounds;
- a widening access premium for students with disabilities;
- special initiative funding to develop partnerships between the universities and schools with traditionally low levels of participation in HE;
- capital funding to assist the universities improve access for disabled students.
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) for 2018/19
Further Education Colleges:
- Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC)
- Northern Regional College (NRC)
- North West Regional College (NWRC)
- South Eastern Regional College (SERC)
- Southern Regional College (SRC)
- South West College (SWC)
Universities and university colleges:
- Queen's University Belfast (QUB)
- St Mary's University College
- Stranmillis University College
- Ulster University (UU)