Office for Students Business Plan

From Elaine Boyes, AGCAS Executive Director

The Office for Students (OfS) published their business plan 2018-19 on 30 April 2018. If you have time for a cup of tea and a biscuit, it is only 19 pages and worth a read as there are four pages on outcomes and a number of strategic outcomes in the participation and experience sections where your institutions will need your expertise to response to the OfS.

Participation

In this section of the business plan, there is a strong requirement for evidence of the impact and impact of activities. The OfS is taking a different approach to OFFA and is including outcomes in their requirements for Access and Participation Agreements. The OfS will evaluate the return on investment on access and participation investment and OfS evaluation and impact work. Since Chris Millward spoke at the Heads of Service Conference in January, I have ensured he received a copy of the March edition of Phoenix which showcased members’ social mobility initiatives.

One to watch is P1.3 Develop and implement information, advice and guidance (IAG) strategy to support informed choice by all students, at all levels, through academic and technical routes, directly from school and later life. Although 2018-19 activities focus on outreach, there will be analysis of the levels of access to impartial IAG, measuring whether students think that they made the right choice of institution, and the influence of IAG in that choice including the use of graduate outcomes survey. As AGCAS members have identified the variability of pre-entry advice as a major issue, this is an area where AGCAS members’ expertise could be invaluable.

Experience

The student experience section includes focus on student perception and whether they are satisfied by their positive outcomes. They are developing new methods to supplement NSS including graduate outcomes survey.  

By spring 2019, OfS will be conducting equality analysis for all protected characteristics to identify barriers for underrepresented groups not addressed by access and participation plans including progression to postgraduate study and professional employment. I know that almost 75% of members have programmes to support their widening participation cohorts but we need to ensure that we are building evidence on what works to close the outcome gap.

Outcomes

The aim of this section of the plan is that

‘All students, from all backgrounds, are able to progress into employment, further study, and fulfilling lives, and their qualifications hold their value over time.’

The OfS strategic objectives and activities relate directly to AGCAS strategic themes particularly regionalisation and graduate outcomes.

The focus on place and sector skills gaps is interesting and with career service expertise in this area it could be an opportunity for you to really lead your institutions response. For institutions with largely local intakes, the OfS plan to develop and implement pilot projects testing ways of improving progression outcomes for graduates who do not move beyond the place they grew up and studied could be of particular interest.

The OfS is looking to improve understanding graduate outcomes including LEO and the Graduate Outcome survey. They have a particular activity to ensure the Graduate Outcomes survey captures wider outcomes beyond work and study. I know from the HESA consultation during 2016/17 that members have strong views on this and AGCAS representatives involved worked hard to ensure the survey included questions to understand if graduates felt their studies supported them in the future plans.