GHWY responds to OfS consultation on regulating equality of opportunity

The Office for Students (OfS) launched a consultation in October on a new approach to regulating equality of opportunity. Marking a change in the approach to understanding inequalities in access and participation, it has proposed the creation of an ‘equality of opportunity risk register’. HE providers would have to consider it when looking into their own risks to equality of opportunity for their Access and Participation Plans.

Go Higher West Yorkshire’s (GHWY) consultation response was developed collaboratively with feed-in from staff in our member institutions (I would like to once again thank them for their input). It focused on the proposal areas most relevant to our partnership’s work.

An understanding of the complex backgrounds of many individuals from under-represented groups was used to argue that ‘Equality of opportunity’ should still recognise that some people require greater input or alternative mechanisms to enable their participation in higher education.

Regarding HE provider involvement in raising pre-16 attainment, it is clear from the original work of ‘NCOP’ that attainment is not the only barrier to HE participation. This work targeted ‘gaps’ areas, which are those with low HE participation rates. They also have a gap between the expected (based on GCSE attainment) and observed rates of participation in HE.

Any increased focus on attainment should therefore not be to the detriment of the kinds of impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG) and outreach work that is so beneficial to those with whom GHWY and our Uni Connect programme work. This is particularly important as we move into an increasingly-complex HE and skills landscape: it is only through collaboration that we can support individuals to make informed choices about the whole range of HE options available.

There would appear to be some big changes and shifts in thinking on the horizon. Working together to respond to these will not only bring in a range of perspectives to support greater understanding, but will mean we are better placed to support our local West Yorkshire communities.

Helen Sykes, GHWY Manager