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The Office for Fair Access (OFFA), in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Newcastle, Australia, has launched a writing programme for widening participation (WP) practitioners which will link them with academic mentors.

The programme, which will support 20 widening participation practitioners in England to write up an aspect of their work for publication in academic journals, will take place through a series of writing workshops held in London, Bristol and Sheffield between November 2016 and October 2017.

The programme in England will be mirrored in Australia, with a selection of the papers produced in both countries to be published in special issues of widening participation journals and presented at international conferences.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education said: “I am delighted to launch this programme today. It is important that academic staff and those on the front line of widening participation work closely together to understand what works. And by sharing this knowledge throughout the sector, everyone involved in widening participation can improve their own work and keep striving to narrow the gap between the most and least advantaged students.

“This programme will be of huge benefit to both the practitioners and academics involved, developing their knowledge and skills in new arenas and giving them an opportunity to share some of the excellent work they are doing on a global stage. But it will also help universities and colleges increase the impact of their work to widen access, making a real difference to the lives of people who have the talent to benefit from higher education.”

Professor Jacqueline Stevenson is the head of research at Sheffield Hallam University's Sheffield Institute of Education and lead for the programme. 

Professor Stevenson said: "Widening participation practitioners are at the forefront of successful outreach, access and retention work. However, these initiatives are not always known about within the academic community, in part because their modes of dissemination are quite different.

"To ensure that best practice can be shared more widely this project will bring together practitioners and academic mentors to develop and publish papers in academic journals.

"Through the project WP practitioners will receive focussed support to help them develop their writing skills, academics will get to work closely with those involved in innovative WP activities, and the Higher Education sector will be better informed about best practice in facilitating the access to Higher Education of those from underrepresented groups. It is a win-win for everyone." 

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For press information please contact:


Please contact Aislinn Keogh (Press and Communications Adviser) at OFFA on 0117 931 7171 or

Sheffield Hallam University

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



1.    Applications for the one year programme are open to those in attendance at a launch event today [Wednesday 21 September 2016].

2.    The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non-departmental public body established under the Higher Education Act 2004 to help promote and safeguard fair access to higher education for people from under-represented groups. All English universities and colleges must make plans to promote and sustain fair access, in order to charge higher fees. These plans will include outreach (e.g. summer schools, mentoring, after-school tuition, links with schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas), activities to improve retention and success, and financial support such as bursaries and scholarships. The plans must be agreed with OFFA, which then monitors their implementation. For more information see