Do you have any questions for Chris Millward, the new Director for Fair Access and Participation’ at the Office for Students? (by Kathy Armour)

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Chris Millward has been appointed as the new ‘Director for Fair Access and Participation’ at the Office for Students (OfS). He is visiting our University later this week, and I wondered whether staff or students had any questions that I might put to him on your behalf?  The OfS is positioned as a regulator with considerable powers, so it is going to have an impact on what we do.

In the recent consultation, the OfS identified a key part of its role as follows: to ensure that “all students, from all backgrounds, are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education” and “all students, from all backgrounds, receive value for money”. Chris Millward’s role will be central to the delivery of these OfS objectives.

As we can already see from the comments on the initial Big Conversation post by Nicola Gale and Matthew Francis, inclusive education is a complex topic in higher education. We agree that our doors should be open to all students who have the ability to succeed – indeed we are passionate about that – but we also know that simply opening the doors is often not enough. We are also very well aware that in addition to the many strengths they bring, students have a diverse range of needs that must be met if they are to reach their potential. So far, so good. The issues become more tricky when we try to consider, for example, what ‘fair’ access means in practice, how far changes to ‘traditional’ curriculum and assessment should go, and whether universities should be responsible for attainment in secondary schools. These are all legitimate questions about ‘fair access and participation’, and staff and students may have many more.

So – do you have any general questions  for Chris Millward about fair access and participation, especially in the context of a Russell Group university?  If so, either post them or just email directly to me by Thursday morning 

I hope that our Big Conversation theme of ‘Inclusive Education’ provides an opportunity for staff and students to contribute thoughts and ideas from a range of different perspectives. Are we all sure that we are as inclusive as we think we are? What – specifically – should we change, and why? The aim is to draw upon your ideas and experiences to inform changes to our curriculum and practices to ensure that we are able to deliver our inclusive education mission.

Finally, The Higher Education Policy Institute put together a report last year on ‘Where next for widening participation and fair access?’

Where next for widening participation and fair access? New insights from leading thinkers – press release

It is a compilation of short pieces from universities across the sector. We already do much of what is covered (e.g. our A2B scheme; sponsoring a school etc) but there are some papers that might be of interest including a foreword by LES Ebdon  (former Director of Fair Access).

Kathy Armour, PVC Education.

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