Fair Access Research: Outreach

Outreach is one of five themes in the Fair Access Research Project (FAR)

What does fair access (or widening participation) look like beyond the university? What are the most effective ways of supporting it? How can existing research on outreach assist?

Browse on this page or jump to specific sections to explore how our research investigates responses to outreach and illustration of best practice.

How do Widening Participation students react to university outreach?

Bournemouth Children’s University

Which method do you use to review research on the impact of outreach?

What is outreach?

“Activity by universities and colleges that helps to raise awareness, aspirations and attainment among people from disadvantaged backgrounds, e.g. summer schools that give a taste of university life, homework clubs for pupils who may not have anywhere to study at home, or universities forming and sustaining links with employers and communities.”
Office for Fair Access (OFFA) glossary

How do widening participation students react to university outreach?

Researchers from the FAR project team collaborated on the steering committee for an Office for Fair Access (OFFA) symposium on evaluating outreach. This two day symposium was held at University of Warwick in March 2016. It focused around a common purpose of building collaborative links, on understanding the politics and differences that exist across the sector,

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Commissioned by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and the University of Warwick, BU researchers from the FAR programme joined a steering committee for an invited symposium with the aim of promoting dialogue and furthering the development of a community of academics and sector professionals interested in developing initiatives, collaborative working and building expertise in the evaluation of outreach.  This two day symposium was held at the University of Warwock in March 2016 and entitled ‘Evaluating Outreach: Methods, Praxis, Standpoints and Policy’. It focused around a common purpose of building collaborative links, on understanding the politics and differences that exist across the sector, aiming to be reflexive of current practices and to challenge existing outreach evaluation methodologies.  The symposium informed the development of a call for research in the evaluation of outreach funded by OFFA.

Symposium paper:
Wardrop, A. 2016.  Evaluating Outreach. University of Warwick.

Dr. Wardrop’s evaluation of the Warwick/OFFA Symposium

OFFA follow-up report:
Dr. Hunt and Dr. Wardrop,  Supporting early career researchers in knowledge exchange: widening participation

OFFA programme on Improving the Evaluation of Outreach

For further information please contact Dr. Clive Hunt.


 Bournemouth Children’s University

Bournemouth Children’s University (BCU) started as a pilot project in 2016 to work with children aged 7-12 and their siblings to enrich their out of school learning experiences.  The project aims to boost children’s self-confidence, increase their love of learning, enhance their motivation in school and raise their aspirations.  It is also a great way to engage the wider family and involve parents & carers in fun on-campus activities at the weekend.

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BCU students mainly come from ‘Change for Life’ and ‘Nurture’ groups within five BU target primary schools plus local authority care. Children collect hours spent in extra-curricular learning (either after school, weekends, or holidays) and once they collect 30 hours of varied activities they can gain an award and graduate on campus in school year 6.  Members of the FAR Project team have worked with the BU Primary Outreach Coordinator  in supporting graduation.

BCU offers a range of further bespoke after school clubs and on-campus and off-campus activities

Frankenstein  Drama Workshop Panto in a Day Falling in Love with Shakespeare
Drama Workshop
Forensic Science
Super Saturday Workshop
Animal Adventures
Super Saturday Workshop
Puppetry Workshop
Circus Skills & Balloon Modelling
Super Saturday Workshop
Design & Technology
Super Saturday Workshop
Festival of Learning
An introduction to Improvisation
Drama Workshop
The chemistry of making Bath Bombs Feed the birds
SportsBU – Badminton, Ballet, Multi-sports, Street Dance

The wider Children’s University Trust won a National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) award in 2017 for their outreach activities. BCU is keen to involve any BU staff or students with new ideas and opportunities to run fun workshops on or off campus.

More information is on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BmthCU

For further information please contact Sarah Smith.

Widening Participation in Higher Education: An exploration of the aspirations of young people living in low participation neighbourhoods

The research of Ed Bickle, one of the PhD students supported by the FAR project, aims to explore, through an interpretive phenomenological analysis, the aspirations of young people living in Low Participation Neighbourhoods (LPN).
Further information on this research is here on the FAR Continuation webpage 

Which method do you use to review research on the impact of outreach?   The paper below offers a suggested research approach

A research approach paper, developed by the FAR team at BU and the University of Liverpool in conjunction with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), outlines how to undertake a systematic review of widening participation research.

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Recent guidelines from OFFA called for institutions to take an increasingly collaborative and evidence-led approach, in response to the lack of evidence base surrounding many widening participation (WP) initiatives. Undertaking systematic reviews is a process which enables researchers and practitioners to scope and evaluate a wide range of studies in an accessible and rigorous way, enabling them to have a much broader overview of robust research and to utilise this to develop their WP practices. However systematic reviews are relatively new in the field of education having largely been utilised in the health care field.

OFFA Research Note.  Systematic Reviews: Making Sense of Research

For further information please contact Dr Vanessa Heaslip.






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