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Sheffield Hallam University has hosted a conference to explore improving access to higher education for people from lower income backgrounds and under-represented groups.

The one-day conference was the culmination of a year-long widening participation writing programme sponsored by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) the body which regulates fair access to higher education in England.

The programme was developed by Sheffield Hallam in collaboration with colleagues in Australia, as well as OFFA, and has enabled practitioners from across the UK to work in partnership with academics to write papers for publication.

The conference included talks around themes such as constructions of self-identity for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, understanding male participation in post 16 outreach activity, the influence of family estrangement and homelessness on student success, and widening participation and social mobility.

The papers and workshops were delivered by practitioners and academics from across the UK, with the conference opened by Professor Les Ebdon, OFFA's Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, and Professor Christina Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at Sheffield Hallam University.

Academics and practitioners from across the UK met to discuss how they could improve access to HE for disadvantaged groups
Prof Les Ebdon, director of OFFA

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Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, head of research at Sheffield Hallam's Sheffield Institute of Education has led the programme and delivered the opening presentation of the day.

She said: "The OFFA writing programme is vital because it allows practitioners to disseminate new and important findings from their work and for policy makers to learn from best practice from across the sector."

For press information: Please contact Martin Webb in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email