Although not access interventions, there are a range of alternative routes into higher education that are important for access in Scotland.
The Toolkit for Fair Access provides short summaries of a range of interventions designed to promote fair access to and successful participation in higher education. For each intervention included, the Toolkit provides an overview of its effectiveness, the cost and the strength of the supporting evidence.
The aim is to help practitioners and funders to select those interventions that are most appropriate given their budget and target audience.
In many cases the evidence for the effectiveness of interventions could be strengthened and improved. The Toolkit also provides signposting to best practice guidelines on evaluation to support the improved evaluation of widening access initiatives across Scotland.
The Toolkit will help you consider the types of widening participation intervention that best suit your context and needs. The Toolkit page lists intervention types along with an indication of the direction of impact (negative to positive), strength of evidence and broad cost category for each one. These three indicators should be considered together, particularly the direction of impact and strength of evidence – an intervention that appears to have a positive impact may be based on limited evidence.
You can also filter interventions by learner journey stage, outcomes and different target groups. You can order and filter interventions according to cost, strength of evidence and direction of impact.
Once you have identified interventions of interest, click on the intervention name to read further detail. This provides a fuller description, including what outcomes have been evidenced, who the intervention has been tested with, and insights from the evidence on how best to design and deliver the intervention. It is important to read this further information to understand the specific ways in which interventions have been found to be effective and how relevant the evidence is to your institution and target audience. You will also see an example of the intervention being used in the Scottish context and be directed to further information and reading.
In 2014 the First Minister of Scotland set out the ambition that “a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will, by the time he or she leaves school, have the same chance of going to university as a child born in one of our least deprived communities.” The Commission on Widening Access (CoWA), set up to advise on how this ambition could be achieved, made clear that the approach to widening access to higher education should be evidence based. However, the Commission also recognised that there was little robust evidence of effectiveness of interventions. The Fair Access Framework, comprising SCAPP and the Toolkit, is a first step towards addressing this.
For each of the interventions covered by the Toolkit, we searched academic journals and other online sources for relevant evaluations. The results were supplemented by evidence from evaluations of Scottish fair access initiatives submitted in response to a call for evidence. We selected the most relevant evidence and summarised it in an annotated bibliography.
For each intervention we assessed:
The development of the Toolkit is a longer-term project. We have prioritised creating Toolkit summaries for a small number of interventions designed to improve retention and attainment in higher education. More summaries for other interventions will be added over time. The Toolkit will continue to be added to and developed during 2019 and 2020.
Interventions to widen access to and success in higher education may affect a range of different outcomes. This is reflected in the evidence we reviewed. In order to compare impact across a range of different interventions, we focused on the effects of a relatively narrow range of outcomes. These are as follows:
Access: Improvements in knowledge of higher education and how to apply; improvements in attitudes towards higher education; increased intention/aspiration to apply to higher education/post-secondary education; application to /offer from higher education/post-secondary education; increased higher education enrolment; increased enrolment on particular courses/institutions (for example, selective institutions);
Retention: students registering for the following term/ semester/ period of study (relevant mainly in North America); students continuing with their higher education studies (either at the same or a different institution) after a year; drop-out / non-completion rates; students completing their programme of study/graduation within the appointed timeframe;
Attainment: including obtaining a ‘good degree’ (2:1 or First); assessment scores and grade point averages (again, this is mainly used as a measure in North American studies);
Success: students progressing to employment or further study after graduation; students in graduate level employment.
The development of the Toolkit is a long-term project. We have prioritised creating Toolkit summaries for a small number of interventions designed to improve access, retention and attainment in higher education. More summaries for other interventions will be added over time.
The Toolkit will continue to be added to and developed during 2019 and 2020.
We will be adding to and updating the Toolkit until 2020. If you have carried out an evaluation of an intervention to widen access to higher education or improve retention, success and progression for under-represented or disadvantaged students and would like to submit evidence for inclusion in the Toolkit, please get in touch.
If you are planning to evaluate a fair access initiative, see the Evaluation guidance section of the website for information on how you can make your evaluation as robust as possible.