Evaluation and Research

Over the past three years, the University has made a significant contribution to evaluation and monitoring of the outcome and impact of our WP activities. Academic colleagues from the Researching, Equity, Access and Participation unit (REAP) housed within the University's department for Educational Research have supported our work in this area.

Work to date in this area includes the development of a toolkit of evaluation materials for use by all WP related projects at Lancaster. The toolkit includes evaluation templates with a bank of questions. The availability of templates and standardised questions allow for comparisons on impact to be made across projects as well as ensuring scope for evaluations to be tailored to the age group and activity in question. The toolkit also includes a standardised monitoring template, allowing the University to collect data on the characteristics of the students we are engaging with.

In addition, we undertake full evaluation reports of all programmes twice a year to understand the achievements and challenges of the WP work we are delivering. Through this process WPAG and REAP offer advice and support to projects on how to best ensure they continue to meet their targets in the most effective manner.

We run three network meetings a year for all staff across the University interested in WP and social mobility. These meetings allow staff to share best practice and offer constructive advice to projects. A Lancaster Moodle site on WP allows for this to communication continue between meetings.

In 2018, we are holding a Lancaster WP Conference which will include opportunities for practitioner CPD and student engagement to help shape activity for 2018-19 and beyond.

We have also undertaken work in previous years on the impact of financial support on WP students. This includes two studies undertaken by Professors Peter Diggle and Amanda Chetwynd and work undertaken by Dr Gill Wyness, UCL on the distribution and impact of higher education bursaries (Jan, 2017) to which the University made a significant contribution. We believe in the importance of financial support for WP students and the positive impacts this can make on their student success and progression. We will continue our work to understand this impact and will use the OFFA published framework to help shape this work in future.

The University has also developed a longitudinal evaluation programme comprising three inter-related strands of activity in conjunction with a series of targeted evaluation projects. From this, the University has developed an improved data source from which to draw conclusions about the effectiveness and impact of our activities, including the profile of the students we are working with. The aim is to assess the impact and opportunities of our WP activities.

We are currently tendering for a team or organisation to build on and develop the work we have already undertaken in-regards-to the evaluation of the work we carry out across each stage of the student lifecycle.

Our priorities for evaluation and monitoring moving forward will be to gather and analyse appropriate data to:

  1. Understand the impact our financial support (scholarships and bursaries) on the retention of students from a WP background and on their ability to progress successfully in their degree.
  2. Track cohorts of students from pre-entry outreach work to graduation destinations and review the long-term impact of our work on students as they move through the student lifecycle. This will include measuring the impact an activity has had on a student’s attainment in their current studies, the retention rates of students across the different stages of their degree course and the destination of students after graduation into graduate employment and/or further study. We will use the outcome of this work to identify any potential gaps in provision.
  3. Review the evaluation processes already used by individual projects and offer advice to them on ways in which this can be improved.
  4. Review the ‘value-added’ opportunities our activities can provide to students during both pre-entry outreach work and post-entry retention and progression programmes.
  5. Produce mid-year and end of year reports for the University, using pre-agreed criteria to measure the impact, sustainability, scalability and replicability of projects.
  6. Contribute to the national and international agenda on widening participation.