Offa and Fair Access

The Office of Fair Access (Offa) is the independent public body that regulates fair access to higher education in England. It promotes and safeguards fair access to higher education for people from lower income backgrounds and other under-represented groups.

Any higher education institution that wants to charge home or EU students more than the basic student fee in 2017/18 must have submitted a Fair Access Agreement to Offa. These agreements have been updated and a key change that relate to teaching and learning is:

  • Focus more closely on the participation, success and progression of Black and minority ethnic groups, where there are gaps in performance: 

Research and analysis from HEFCE shows significant variations in degree outcome for students from different ethnicities. In addition, research from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) indicates that some ethnic groups (specifically as Black Caribbean and Other Black pupils) are significantly less likely to attend higher tariff institutions than other ethnicities.


We expect all institutions to use their own internal data to explore whether there are differences across the student lifecycle by ethnicity and other protected characteristics, and to identify how they will look to address any differences identified.


The Equality Challenge Unit has launched a new Race Equality Charter, which provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers for minority ethnic staff and students. As part of this work, institutions are required to identify and address trends in student admissions, continuation rates, degree attainment rates, and graduate employment, by ethnicity. In addition institutions are required to describe how they have considered race equality in their curriculums. You can include the cost of such work to support students within your access agreement expenditure.

Dr Deborah Gabriel

I'm a Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University who has lectured in journalism, politics, new media and corporate marketing communications. I aim to contribute to social change through teaching, research and professional practice, and I'm especially interested in race equality.

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