A Scottish Toolkit for Fair Access icon

A Scottish Toolkit for Fair Access

CFE Research and academic partners have been commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council, on behalf of the Commissioner for Fair Access, to produce a Scottish Toolkit for Fair Access. This briefing provides further information about the project and how you can contribute.

Why is a Toolkit for Fair Access needed?  

In 2014 the First Minister of Scotland set out the ambition that “a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will, by the time he or she leaves school, have the same chance of going to university as a child born in one of our least deprived communities.” The Commission for Widening Access (CoWA), set up to advise on how this ambition could be achieved, made clear that the approach to widening access to higher education (HE) should be evidence based. However, the Commission also recognised that there was little robust evidence of effectiveness of interventions.

How will the Toolkit help?

The Toolkit will help by bringing together the best available evidence, identifying the gaps and providing guidance to help begin to fill them.

The Toolkit will provide an accessible summary of the most impactful interventions to promote fair access to, successful participation in and positive outcomes from higher education. It will indicate the effectiveness, cost and credibility of supporting evidence for a variety of interventions. The aim is to help practitioners and funders to select those interventions that are most appropriate given their budget and target audience.

The Toolkit will also provide best practice guidelines on evaluation to support the improved evaluation of widening access initiatives across Scotland.

Who is creating the Toolkit?

The SFC has commissioned CFE Research and academic partners Dr Claire Crawford and Dr Colin McCaig. The team have experience in evaluating widening access initiatives, along with expertise in developing evaluation frameworks and accessible toolkits.

When will the Toolkit be ready?

The first phase of the Toolkit should be published online in August 2018. This will cover interventions designed to support retention, progression and success in HE, such as transition support, mentoring, learning support and employability guidance.

The second phase, due for publication in December 2018, will focus on interventions to support access to HE, such as residential programmes, application support and articulation.

We are looking at retention, progression and success interventions first because this is where we believe there are clear gaps in the evidence. It also gives us longer to gather evidence from Scottish stakeholders about access programmes.

Updates to the Toolkit will be made in 2019 and 2020.

Why should I get involved?

The Toolkit should have a distinctive Scottish focus. To achieve this it is crucial that we collate as much evidence from Scottish HE institutions, colleges and other access providers as possible. This is your opportunity to ensure that the widening access work being undertaken and evaluated at your institution or organisation is included in the Toolkit.

We also want to hear from practitioners how we can make the Toolkit as relevant and useful as possible.

How can I get involved?

You can submit your evaluation evidence to our Call for Evidence. You can use the short online form to tell us about activities to widen access to HE, how you evaluated them and what the results were. We will then include it in our review of the evidence to inform the Toolkit.

Please submit your evidence here:


Members of the project team will also be attending events in Scotland to talk to stakeholders. You can meet us at the QAA Enhancement Themes Conference in Glasgow on 7th June, and at the Fair Access Conference in Perth on 12th June. Get in touch to find out where else you can meet members of the team.

How can I find out more information?

Contact Jo Welford on 0116 229 3300 or joanna.welford@cfe.org.uk.

Dr Joanna Welford image

Key project contact

Dr Joanna Welford

Jo has a wealth of experience in qualitative research and evaluation. She has a strong background in working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds and predominantly works on health and wellbeing projects. Jo recently managed research into the management of safe standing at football grounds, the findings of which helped inform the Government’s review of the all-seater policy. Previously Jo worked in academia, in both the Sports Science department at Loughborough University and the Department of Community and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University. She has an interest in gender and sport and has written extensively on women’s football in the UK since completing a PhD on this topic.

Contact: joanna.welford@cfe.org.uk