To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of a long-term approach to funding (a) Uni Connect and (b) other social mobility projects to enable them to establish themselves and demonstrate their effect.
22 January 2021
The Uni Connect outreach programme operated by the Office for Student (OfS) has, since its inception in 2017, established 29 regional partnerships of universities, colleges, employers and other local partners, to provide sustained outreach to young people in schools and colleges in areas with low or unexplained gaps in higher education (HE) participation. The programme has been successful in addressing cold spots in outreach and enabling engagement from schools and colleges. Funding this programme has embedded a collaborative approach to widening access and enabled local partners to galvanise action around higher education outreach to complement the funding already spent by HE Providers on outreach as part of their Access and Participation Plans.
The initial investment in the Uni Connect programme to establish a collaborative model and set up a regional infrastructure comes to an end in July 2021, so it is an appropriate time to consider the scope and objectives of the programme, including funding other areas of increasing importance for students and prospective students, particularly in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The OfS is currently consulting on the future of Uni Connect and will want to consider all aspects of the programme including the impact of any changes on staff and the continuity of the programme. The OfS has provided partnerships with programme-wide updates at regular meetings with Programme Leads and Chairs, regarding the next phase of funding for Uni Connect. These updates have been clear that decisions about future funding for academic year 2021/2022 will be subject to decision making from spring 2021 by the OfS, in light of the teaching grant available and having regard to general duties, public sector equality duty and statutory guidance.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, writes annually to the OfS, setting out the available teaching grant funding, and will issue the letter for 2021/2022 in due course.