Widening access and inclusion

HEFCW Widening Access

Widening access, inclusion, progression and success in higher education is a key part of our strategy for all who can benefit from higher education (HE).

We work with the Welsh Government, HE providers and other partners to support and promote opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds who have the potential to benefit from higher education.

Widening access to higher education and beyond makes a significant contribution to the society and economy of Wales, including a more equal Wales and a prosperous Wales, and supports social justice, social mobility, economic upskilling and institutions’ civic mission activities such as working with schools.

Our widening access strategic priorities include:

  • securing all-age recruitment from the bottom two clusters of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation areas.
  • ensuring that groups under-represented in HE are supported and enabled to succeed.
  • improving progression pathways to HE.
  • promoting fair admissions.
  • promoting Wales as the destination of first choice for HE.
  • prioritising higher-level learning and skills, retention and student success.
  • increasing flexible learning opportunities, including part-time study, workplace learning and technology-enhanced learning.
  • improving fair access to the professions, high level skills and the priority sectors contributing to economic prosperity.
  • supporting Welsh Government priorities relating to tackling poverty, raising educational aspirations and attainment, social mobility and equality of opportunity.
  • improving the evidence base to support widening access to HE.

Performance measures

The higher education sector’s performance is monitored each year against a range of UK and Wales-specific measures, including our National Measures.

Reaching Wider Programme

We established the Reaching Wider programme in 2002/03 as a Wales-wide, collaborative, long-term programme to widen access to higher education and higher-level skills.

The Reaching Wider Programme aims to increase higher education participation from priority groups and communities in Wales by raising educational aspirations and skills, and creating innovative study opportunities and learning pathways to higher education. 

Three regional Reaching Wider Partnerships lead activities in North and Mid Wales, South West Wales and South East Wales. All higher and further education institutions in Wales are members of Reaching Wider Partnerships. Other regional partners vary, but include local authorities, employers, schools, the voluntary sector and Careers Wales.

Equality and diversity

While we do not regulate equality and diversity in higher education (HE), our role is to support, champion and challenge HE to improve the equality and diversity of staff and students.

Well-being and health

We fund, encourage and challenge universities to support their staff and students’ well-being and health.

Our Well-being and Health in Higher Education Policy Statement sets our our position.

We fund a range of initiatives, including five collaborative well-being and health projects. The projects are expected to improve and sustain practice that can be shared across higher education, to encourage changes across the whole university and HE system.

We also jointly fund the Student Space project with the Office for Students. Student Space provides information and advice to help students with their well-being and health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our 2019 publication Higher Education for the Nation: Student well-being and health shows how universities and colleges foster healthy and thriving higher education environments.

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV)

We published our guidance on tackling violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence VAWDASV in higher education (HE) in November 2020.  

The guidance includes ten case studies of practice from across Wales that illustrate cross-university, collaborative responses to enabling staff and students in HE to live, work and study free of fear.