Keele named lead on major national higher education project

Posted on 12 January 2015
We’re delighted to lead the development of the WPCG. Keele has a long and proud history of working with schools and colleges to support and encourage progression to higher education for all those who can benefit from it.

Keele University has been named as one of the lead institutions for a £22million national outreach scheme encouraging more young people into higher education.

As lead of the Widening Participation Collaborative Group (WPCG) for the two-year National Network of Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) scheme, Keele will co-ordinate the development and information about the work of nine universities and colleges – including itself – within the communities they cover. 

University of Oxford (Somerville College), University of Derby, University of Chester, Harper Adams University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Staffordshire University, Macclesfield College (Cheshire HE Consortium of Colleges), Reaseheath College and Keele University will work with schools, colleges and universities in their areas to get more young people into higher education. The scheme will focus closely on schools and colleges with relatively few pupils who go on to university, but the NNCO will serve all state-funded schools and colleges.

The scheme starts immediately and Keele University is urging schools, colleges and universities in its region to get in touch to see how the scheme can help.

Professor Nick Foskett, Vice-Chancellor at Keele University, said: “We’re delighted to lead the development of the WPCG. Keele has a long and proud history of working with schools and colleges to support and encourage progression to higher education for all those who can benefit from it.

“As lead for this group we are working with eight other universities and FE colleges to expand on our outreach activities for pupils in our areas. We are looking forward to working with secondary schools and colleges and would encourage them to get in contact with us through the HEFCE website so we can put them in touch with the most suitable institution involved.”

In order to complete this task of the NNCO, funding from Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been awarded to more than 200 higher education institutions to reach 4,300 secondary schools and colleges.

The NNCO is set up and managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Universities and colleges have been split into 35 regions and institutions involved are set to deliver outreach programmes giving information on higher education to all state-funded schools and colleges within their communities.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science, welcomed the networks, said: “Higher education is a transformational experience and the future of the UK economy depends on having highly-trained graduates so it is vital that young people have the right information about progressing into higher education. This programme will ensure that schools and colleges across England can help their students learn about higher education in the classroom, online and through local outreach activity.

“A record number of students entered higher education in 2014, with entry rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds increasing by over 10% to its highest ever level. However there is still more work to do to ensure all students who want to study hard can benefit, irrespective of their background."

Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: “We have been impressed by the higher education sector’s response to this scheme, which means that vital information about how to progress into higher education will be available to people across England. We set out to establish coverage of state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges and, through the support of the sector, this will be achieved.

“As well as providing co-ordinated coverage of outreach activity, we are keen that the NNCO scheme contributes innovative approaches to the interaction between higher education institutions and schools and colleges. We will be evaluating the scheme to ensure that innovation can be shared amongst networks and quickly benefit schools and colleges and the students they support.”

HEFCE has launched a webpage,, which will enable schools and colleges to find their local network.


1. The NNCO scheme was first announced in a written ministerial statement in November 2013, when the former Minister for Universities and Science set out changes to the National Scholarship Programme from 2014-15 onwards. He stated that:

‘By bringing forward from 2015-16 the planned reduction of £100 million in funding for the NSP we are able to redirect £25 million to establish a new network to support collaborative outreach.

‘Universities, colleges and schools will benefit from an investment of £25 million in 2014 to help them work together more effectively as they reach out to encourage more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to university.’

2. Funding of £22 million is provided for the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The remaining £3 million from the £25 million allocated will fund the rolling-out of the Higher Education Access Tracker, a sector-owned service which enables institutions to track learners through the education system and measure the success of their interventions.

3. The NNCO scheme funds publicly funded universities and colleges to develop local networks to coordinate outreach activities for all state-funded secondary schools and colleges in England. At present 226 universities and colleges are partners in networks.

4. The three national networks will offer specific support to care leavers, older learners and learners aspiring to progress to Oxford and Cambridge.

5. Networks will work most closely with schools and colleges which have relatively few pupils who go on to university, but the scheme will offer a gateway to information for all state-funded schools and colleges.

6. Funding has been made available to networks of universities and colleges which are already in place – for example, those which developed in some areas following the cessation of the Aimhigher programme – as well as to newly developed networks.

7. Where appropriate, HEFCE is encouraging networks to use the funding to support approaches to higher skills and progression, using European Social Fund grants in conjunction with their local enterprise partnership.