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Birkbeck’s commitment to fair access recognised by OFFA

Birkbeck's mission-driven commitment to widening access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds has been recognised by OFFA

Birkbeck, University of London’s mission-driven commitment to widening access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds has been recognised by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

The fair access watchdog for universities in England has approved an access agreement with Birkbeck, an achievement which is outlined in today’s publication of OFFA’s 2016-17 annual report.

In a statement accompanying the report’s release, Professor Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said he was confident that such approved agreements – of which 183 were approved today – will make a “real and lasting difference” in long-term efforts to erode the “stubborn link” between childhood background and adult life chances.

He added that: “The work and ambition universities and colleges have committed to today will transform lives.”

Among the reasons for Birkbeck’s approval and recognition are its commitment to part-time education, plus innovative outreach and student progression programmes - such as its Pop-Up University initiative, and professional recruitment service, Birkbeck Talent.

The college’s ambitious targets for widening participation in the coming four years have also been noted, including a maintained focus on students from low income backgrounds, and increasing retention of students across the college.

Birkbeck’s access agreement approval follows from OFFA’s recent praise of the college’s commitment to part-time education in the face of an increasingly challenging educational marketplace and funding landscape.

In the watchdog’s topic briefing on mature learners in June, Birkbeck was lauded for:

    • Offering a range of Certificates of Higher Education at a lower cost to attract mature students who may be more debt-averse than younger students
    • Recognising that mature students may have relatively high household incomes but also significant financial commitments, such as mortgage repayments or childcare costs. This is reflected in the colleges threshold for financial support for part-time students to £40,000

    Tricia King, Pro-Vice-Master Student Engagement and Recruitment at Birkbeck, said: “We are delighted to have once again received this recognition from OFFA. Professor Ebdon’s comments today on the ability of educational institutions to transform lives are very well founded, and reflect what we regularly hear from our students about Birkbeck having changed their lives for the better.

    “Opening doors for students from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds is a core mission for the college, inspiring us to innovate and constantly strengthen programmes of student outreach, progression and retention.”

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