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The Higher Education Funding Council for England assists universities with the additional costs of recruiting students from non-traditional backgrounds. The funding is calculated in such a way as to reflect the students from non-traditional backgrounds that an institution has already recruited. It is paid to institutions as part of their teaching and learning budget, and it is not ring-fenced for any specific activities.
An assessment of its effectiveness is a matter for the Funding Council, however, a 2006 assessment made by the Funding Council found that evidence for the impact of the allocation on institutional behaviour was strong, and that there was persuasive evidence of the effectiveness of specific institutional interventions.
The first Widening Participation Strategic Assessments (WPSAs) will be submitted by higher education institutions to the Funding Council by the end of June. The assessment will contain detailed information about the university's progress in widening participation through information about: the full range of the institution's widening participation activity at an appropriately aggregated level; the detailed targets and milestones set by the university; and the level of resource committed to widening participation, including, but not limited to, the Funding Council's widening participation allocation and the spending on outreach and bursaries covered by access agreements. Universities also receive funding through the Aimhigher initiative.
Evaluation of predecessor programmes shows that they have a significant impact on the aspirations of young people towards university, and their pre-entry attainment levels.