Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1, WAQLCE2014-6

Widening participation in higher education has been a central pillar of UK Government’s higher education policy since the 1990s. In Wales, the centrality of the ‘widening access’ agenda within its strategy for higher education has resulted in pressure on HEIs to expand access to HE opportunities to those traditionally under-represented in it. With the aim of driving forward its widening access agenda the Welsh Government (WG) also established regional Reaching Wider Partnerships (RWP) in 2002/3 in four regions in Wales tasked to raise aspirations and awareness of HE through partnership work between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Further Education (FE) colleges, schools and local community organisations. Ever since HEIs and RWPs have been required to invest in activities and programmes aimed at widening access to HE they have been required by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to evaluate their impact and effectiveness. This requirement to illustrate ‘effectiveness’ and ‘impact’ of widening access activities has been heightened by the ‘austere’ financial landscape that Wales has experienced following global economic recession so that a case can be made for the continuation of their funding (HEA, 2012)