Uni Connect

Uni Connect was an Ofs programme (ending July 2021). The programme (formerly the National Collaborative Outreach Programme or NCOP) was designed to help the government reach its social mobility widening participation target to double the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds going into Higher Education and increase the number of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) students and other groups in the sector by 2020. 

Within the programme, 29 local partnerships of universities and other key stakeholders aim to deliver targeted Higher Education outreach activities to young people in Years 9 to 13 attending schools and colleges, focusing specifically the 997 wards where the Higher Education participation of young people has been shown to be lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment alone.

The Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute (LHERI) has been commissioned by LiNCHigher to evaluate the impact of the second phase of Uni Connect across Lincolnshire where activities are being delivered in Boston, Gainsborough, Grantham, Lincoln City, South Holland and the Coastal area of the county.  The evaluation adopts a mix-methods approach employing both national and local survey data and information obtained from a small number of case study schools and colleges.  This will provide a holistic understanding of what works and where for students in particular contexts.  The evaluation will also draw on data from ‘Explaining the Gaps’ to enable the tracking of a number of Uni Connect students over the duration.

Evidence for the interim report was collected between March and July 2020 during the Covid-19 national lockdown when all schools were closed and included an online student activity survey, semi-structured interviews with School Leads and LiNCHigher Area Engagement Officers and student focus groups, conducted just prior to lockdown in early March. The evaluation found that, prior to Covid-19, interventions were beginning to have a positive impact on the Higher Education aspirations of all students’ and that schools both welcomed and highly valued the initiative. The evaluation report made several recommendations, including ensuring workshops are more interactive.

The report presents findings from the evaluation and makes recommendations for school, colleges, the LiNCHigher partnership, funders and policymakers. Evidence for the final report was collected between August 2020 and July 2021 during the ongoing disruption in schools and colleges caused by Covid-19. The evaluation took a mixed methods approach using quantitative and qualitative data sets comprising an end of year student outcome survey, a student activity survey, student focus groups and interviews with programme leads. The evaluation used the NERUPI framework to measure the impact of activities delivered as part of the programme. The report makes many recommendations including a need for the delivery of more activities aimed at developing students understanding through contextualised subject specific knowledge and attainment raising.

For project outputs and reports click on the links below:

NERUPI network report (March 2022) Collaborative research to explore experiences of outreach during the pandemic, NERUPI Uni connect partnerships
Uni Connect national learner survey (March 22) – Executive summary
Executive Summary – End of Phase 2
Phase 2 – UC evaluation report
Assessing the impact of regional transformative outreach activities aimed at widening university access, and participation among under-represented groups in schools