Variation request 2023/24


The University of Derby is committed to addressing the inequalities that exist in higher education and achieving the targets set within our Access and Participation Plan (APP) 2020/21 to 2024/25. This document was produced in response to the Office for Students’ (OfS) new priorities for access and participation and its request that higher education providers submit a variation to their APP. Whilst the variations take effect from 2023/24, many workstreams that contribute to meeting the new OfS priorities are already in place. This document sets out:

The University is a top-ten institution in England for widening access for underrepresented groups in higher education. 24.7% of our UK domiciled, young, full-time, entrants were from POLAR4 low participation neighbourhoods in 2020/21, 7th in England. The University’s equality of opportunity challenges lie within the success and progression stages of the student cycle. Previously, as the APP did not include access targets, the University was not required to set out how it works in partnership with schools and the activities offered, many of which support attainment raising. This document sets out the University’s work in this area, including two activities to be expanded from 2023/24.

The APP was submitted in 2019. The onset of the pandemic and the prevailing economic and social disruption had significant deleterious consequences, disproportionately for students from underrepresented groups. Higher education provision changed notably during the pandemic. Learning from this experience, in partnership with our students, led to enhancements to allow our students to participate successfully and secure the best possible outcomes. This document expresses the University’s evolving approach to transition, learning and teaching, awarding gaps, student support, and graduate outcomes, to be implemented and refined during 2022/23 and 2023/24.

The University has a long history of developing flexible and diverse destinations to help students with the ambition, desire, and potential to succeed. This document includes examples of how the University is supporting this crucial endeavour, and the progress we are making in our new developments, many of which will be live in 2023/24, if not sooner.

Priority A: Accessible Access and Participation Plans

The University has produced an APP summary plan to help prospective and current students, parents, and other interested people to understand the University’s key access and participation challenges, how we will address those challenges, and the targets set.

See our APP summary plan

Priority B: Partnership with schools to raise attainment

The University has cultivated mature partnerships with local school leaders, educators, and networks in various ways to help raise attainment. The examples described in this document include the University’s initial teacher training offer, the hosting of strategic school networks, a programme of continuing professional development (CPD) activity for teachers, staff serving as governors in local schools, research activity, widening access outreach programmes and leadership of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme (DANCOP), Uni Connect partnership. Through these partnerships, the University will address not only improvements in the immediate attainment of young people, but also improve their preparedness for higher education study.

The University will expand attainment raising activity for groups that sit outside of established remits such as Uni Connect, including young learners (see Primary Explorers), from 2023/24. Decisions will be taken in consultation with local stakeholders (including the newly formed Derby Priority Education Investment Area Board and schools) and evidence of impact both internally and across the sector. During autumn 2022, the OfS will consult on proposals for the delivery of the full suite of reforms to access and participation, including the re-focusing of APPs. This will enable teaching bodies and groups, school leaders, educators, and other key stakeholders to set out how higher education providers can offer effective, contextualised, support to raise attainment.

The University will position itself as an anchor institution working across several networks, principally through leadership of DANCOP and by overseeing a joined-up approach with other key organisations, such as higher education providers and further education colleges in the DANCOP partnership, D2N2 (the local economic partnership), and local councils within Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The University will use the geographic reach and network of DANCOP organisations to scope resource and mobilise a coordinated package of attainment support for schools that provides rich and valuable opportunities and experiences for young people. 

The Institute of Education

Building upon our long-standing reputation for excellence in the field of education, the University’s Institute of Education ensures that its graduates are prepared to reflect and embrace the demands of the 21st century workforce and transform people’s lives through education. Our programmes ensure that members of the education workforce reflect the diverse learners and communities they serve, supporting all to realise their full potential. The Institute of Education works in partnership with schools to help raise attainment in the following ways:

1. Initial teacher training

Strong Ofsted inspection outcomes for initial teacher training (ITT) in primary, secondary and Post-14, FE and Skills training demonstrates how the University is well placed to provide support and advice across the full range of teacher education. The current Ofsted report (December 2015) stated that ‘leaders have established strong partnerships and are influential in driving improvements in provision locally, regionally and nationally,’ and that newly qualified teachers entering the profession having studied at the University are ‘well prepared for the challenges of working in primary schools’.

2. Executive Partnership Board (EPB)

The University established the EPB in 2019. It succeeded the Partnership Development and Quality Group which had been in place since 2006. The EPB brings a network of schools together to share practice, request advice, discuss ideas, co-construct the ITT curricula and lead projects to improve the relevancy and credibility of the University’s ITT provision, supporting recruitment and retention in the teaching profession. Educators see this as a professional development opportunity and are involved in training through their links to the EPB. Members are drawn from our diverse partnership of over 500 educational settings.

3. Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) School Peer Challenge

Our academics supported a Derby Opportunity Area project between 2018 and 2021 to help close the opportunities gap for young learners through changing the leadership culture in mainstream schools so that positive outcomes in SEND and inclusion were prioritised. In total, 50 primary and 15 secondary schools took part in the challenge. The evaluation report identified that ‘with respect to individual schools and permanent exclusions there has been an overall decrease from 2017/18 to 2018/19 and larger amongst schools who had received a Challenger visit and report before June 2019.’

4. Children Meaning Making Project

This collaborative arts project brought together local businesses, cultural institutions, and University of Derby students to provide children access to the Royal Crown Derby Museum and other cultural institutions. In 2020/21, 120 children aged 5-7 took part in ceramics workshops to create individual artefacts that formed a final exhibition piece. The project valued the children’s ideas and supported their creativity, identity, and agency. It also provided children with a history of exclusion and isolation with creative license to share their ideas.

5. CPD

The University offers a CPD programme to allow teachers to develop a deeper and more critical understanding of their practice and meet the educational needs of the region. It covers key themes such as a teacher inquiry, attachment theory, primary mathematics, and autism, to help teachers to develop professionally and personally. Bespoke sessions are also devised for settings. Most recently, ITT staff have worked with the Local Authority School Improvement team to support several Derby City schools in the development of middle/subject leaders and their understanding of intent and implementation of an ambitious curricula for wider curriculum subjects.

6. Governance

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kathryn Mitchell, chaired the Derby Opportunity Area (OA) Partnership Board between 2017-2022. The Board oversaw the creation of the OA delivery plan and progress against the priority areas: increasing the number of young people achieving a good level of development in the early years, raising attainment in primary and secondary schools, and broadening horizons for young people throughout their school lives. University staff served on Boards convened to oversee each OA priority area.

The Government’s levelling up paper (2022) identified Derby as one of 55 cold spots of the country where school outcomes are the weakest, and the need to target investment, support, and action to enable young people to succeed. The paper set out the creation of new Education Investment Areas (EIAs). University staff will serve as members on Derby City EIA Boards, commencing in 2022.

University staff are also encouraged to serve as governors in local schools. Members of staff sit on the Strategic Boards of our four local Teaching School Hubs whilst others sit on local trustee boards working with multi-academy trust schools which help the University to influence improvement in practice and performance. 


Our researchers engage with schools in relation to a wide variety of themes and topics:

Impact: The report noted that Plus One had helped participants to develop a wide range of skills that are useful in wider life and work and was seen as valuable by the young people and adults because of the relationships it had helped to develop. Participants felt in control of the cultural production process that had helped them to create and tell their stories. Plus One demonstrated an internal ethic of care between those involved in it, but also had a harder edge as it challenged society to do more to transform the social harm that often affects looked after children and care leavers. 


The University’s Widening Access team works in partnership with schools within Derby City and Derbyshire to provide outreach programmes designed to improve attainment and achievement, and to raise learners’ awareness of higher education and alternative progression opportunities. The team aims to help learners to succeed in school and make well-informed decisions regarding their future.

1. Progress to Success Framework (P2S)

P2S is an impactful, place-based outreach programme, working collaboratively with local schools and organisations within the OA (succeeded by the EIA in 2022), the University’s student body, and learners themselves, to address entrenched social immobility and achieve sustained change. The key objective of the P2S is to help learners to channel their aspirations and achieve their ambitions. P2S takes a ‘building block’ approach and is highly adaptable. It is responsive to cross-cutting government policies on skills gaps, inclusion and levelling up, and to local need, working with learners to find what fires their imagination, grows their selfbelief, and closes knowledge gaps.

P2S offers learners a series of research-informed experiences which create a long-term, sustained programme from Year 7 to 11. Activities include summer schools, visit days, classroom workshops, and virtual sessions which are supported by the University’s network of Student Ambassadors, who receive training in professionalism, customer service and safeguarding. P2S is targeted to provide access to learners who will gain maximum benefit. In 2020/21, 78% of participants were from POLAR4 Q1/2, 60% were from IDACE Q1/2 and 30% were eligible for free school meals.

Impact: In 2020/21, 174 activities and 6,680 engagement opportunities were accessed by 3,001 learners across 34 schools. Robust evaluation is key to the development and enhancement of P2S. Analysis of impact data and learner, teacher, and practitioner voice was used to refine P2S into its current form. Alongside the mixed methods evaluation model which scaffolds P2S, the flexible nature of the delivery framework sets it apart from other programmes within the sector. The longitudinal nature of the evaluation ensures outcomes are tracked, not only through school, but into and beyond higher education. Evidence of tangible impact in 2020/21 includes:

2. Primary Explorers

Research indicates that attainment gaps develop from an early age due to socio-economic factors. Primary Explorers enables the University to work with local primary schools to help raise the attainment of young, disadvantaged learners. It consists of two elements: a series of bookable one-off events on campus, and a targeted, intensive, programme of activity provided for six primary schools in the most disadvantaged areas of Derby. In 2020/21, 614 young learners from 11 primary schools attended Primary Explorers events.

Impact: Evaluation revealed a 30pp increase in those who would like to come to university in the future, a 57pp increase in those who now can name ‘a subject you can study at university’, and a 67pp increase in those who agree that they can go to university in the future. Teacher voice and evaluation further underlines impact: ’As many of the children at our school come from deprived and low socio-economic backgrounds, it was really valuable for those children who have the ability to go to University to see that it is something which they can ALL aspire to doing one day.’

Expansion: In 2022/23, the University’s review of the programme entails expansion with more of the University’s students supporting inclusion of young learners and their engagement with reading. This will have the dual benefits of upskilling the student body whilst helping to raise attainment. The review includes stakeholder consultation (including the Derby Priority Education Investment Area Board and primary schools), evidence of impact, and resource requirements. Newly commissioned activities will be piloted and evaluated in 2023/24. 

3. HE Can project

The project enables young males from low socio-economic backgrounds to support the development of their career knowledge, skills, and to build confidence in their abilities. It provides multiple contact opportunities with positive male role models throughout Key Stage 3, and places a strong emphasis on self-reflection and metacognition, encouraging participants to complete reflective journals after each contact opportunity. HE Can has two strands:

Impact: Participants produced reflective journals and their comments included: ‘I have learned to respect myself’, ‘I have learnt that we are all different and have potential’, ‘The knowledge gained today will help me decide where to go when school ends’. Evaluation revealed that 60% of participants felt they knew enough about university to decide whether to apply after completing the programme, up from 10% at the start.

Impact: Evaluation of the 2020/21 HE Can Summer School highlighted a 38pp increase in participants who felt motivated to work hard in school, a 43pp increase in the number of participants who would consider applying to university in future. Teacher feedback referred to the event as being ‘inspiring’ ‘motivational’ and ‘successful’.

4. Think, Reflect, Succeed

Focuses on equipping learners with the independent learning skills necessary for their current and future studies. Activity centres on reflective thinking, metacognition, critical thinking, and research skills to encourage participants to develop self-efficacy in their academic skills, and higher-order thinking skills to increase their confidence and knowledge of what to expect at university, as well as supporting their current studies. The overall aim is to guide participants in understanding their individual thinking process and prepare them for higher-level learning. In 2020/21, 40 Year 10 and 68 Year 12 learners took part from four local schools. Several sessions took place online due to the pandemic.

Impact: 95% of online participants agreed that the sessions helped them to understand and develop their critical thinking skills. 95% agreed they knew enough about reflection to apply this skill in future. Qualitative feedback suggested an increase in participants’ self-confidence and self-efficacy regarding their academic skills, particularly in critical thinking, reflection, and research.

Pre- and post-activity evaluation demonstrates positive impact: a 67pp increase in participants who stated they knew enough about critical thinking to apply it to their current and future studies, a 57pp increase in participants who stated they knew enough about reflection to apply it to their current and future studies, and a 46pp increase in participants who stated they knew enough about research skills to apply them to their current and future studies.

Expansion: In 2022/23, the University’s review and expansion of the programme will maximise impact. This will have the dual benefit of improving learners’ GCSE attainment outcomes and preparing them for future higher-level study. The review includes stakeholder consultation (including the Derby Priority Education Investment Area Board, schools and Uni Connect partnerships), evidence of impact, and consideration of resource requirements needed to expand this activity from 2023/24 onwards. 

5. Derby Scholars

This multi-intervention, multi-age programme of academic engagement is delivered in collaboration with Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge to address low HE progression to Oxbridge and highly selective courses. It features two strands: (1) For Year 12, regular Homework Clubs deliver information, advice, and guidance (IAG) with a focus on applying to Oxbridge and developing academic learning skills. Other activities include masterclasses delivered by Oxbridge PhD students, virtual campus tours and opportunities to talk to current undergraduate students at Derby and Oxford. (2) For Year 9, a series of on-campus and virtual sessions about university life, myth-busting about Oxbridge, and developing academic skills.

Impact: In 2020/21, 21 Year 12s from 4 post-16 providers and 32 Year 9s took part from 5 schools. The initial evaluation findings included:

Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme (DANCOP)

The University leads DANCOP, a collaboration of universities and further education colleges throughout our region, which aims to inspire and inform learners about their options and to encourage them to think about higher education. DANCOP provides targeted outreach activities in schools and colleges, including activities and information on the benefits and realities of higher education, and breaking down barriers that may prevent participation. DANCOP and its partner institutions delivered 4,495 activities in 2020/21 which engaged 54% of the target population. This return was significantly above the Government target of 20%.

As the Uni Connect programme moves into a new phase from 2022/23, DANCOP will build on its previous work, including the comprehensive ‘mapping and gapping’ exercise completed in 2020/21, to ensure the University and other stakeholders are able to address gaps in outreach and priority cold spots for learners at risk of disadvantage. DANCOP will reposition the strategic element of its work, moving from a delivery model to broker and align outreach activities of partner HEIs (delivered as part of their APPs), FECs, the D2N2 local enterprise partnership, with a DANCOP ‘infill’ offer where needed. This method of collaboration will allow the University to play its part in ensuring maximum coverage across the partnership. The University is also working to identify learners and life stages beyond the Uni Connect programme aims and target groups, such as Key Stage 2, to ensure resources are mobilised to meet local need.

Priority C: Access to higher education leads to successful participation

This section sets out how the University ensures that access for students from underrepresented groups leads to successful participation within higher education and good graduate outcomes. Examples include induction activity to facilitate a smooth transition to higher education, high quality learning and teaching opportunities, a whole institution approach to tackling awarding gaps, our new approach to student support, and a strong career development and planning offer.


University Induction

Co-designed by students, academics, and professional services staff and launched in 2020/21, University induction provides students with key information ahead of arriving on campus and taking part in programme induction, ensuring they are fully prepared for learning and teaching. Students can access University Induction materials via the Blackboard VLE. It includes an online induction module, including specialist units for apprenticeship and international students. The online content takes approximately 12 hours to complete. Knowledge and understanding are reviewed at the end of each unit through quizzes and students gain digital badges for their engagement. Academic teams use the materials during programme induction to create distinct cohort identities and a sense of belonging for their students. The University’s virtual induction programme won the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Optimizing Student Experience in 2021.

Impact: The University launched an evaluation student survey in September 2020. Over 500 students responded and 95% agreed that they had a ‘better understanding of what was expected of them as a student’. Students reported that the content made them more confident about starting their studies (noting that student-led videos were ‘reassuring’). Students were also confident in what was expected from the University and had a better grasp of the digital resources available. The evaluation was repeated in September 2021 to identify future improvements.

Learning, Teaching, and Assessment

The pandemic required immediate learning and teaching solutions which culminated in the creation and implementation of the Blended Applied Learning Model (BALM) from September 2020. The University evaluated the effectiveness of BALM through staff feedback, data on engagement and assessment, and student feedback. The evaluation outcomes have helped shape two new frameworks which meet the needs of the University’s diverse student body:

1. Frameworks

The new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Framework takes an outcomes-based approach to defining the core experiences that should be included in all provision. It includes five Factors of Success to be applied at all levels of the programme design process: to increase students’ sense of belonging and purpose, self-efficacy, resilience, and engagement. The new Curriculum Design Framework contains four core design themes to be evident in all provision: programmes are research and innovation led, embed sustainable development, are inclusive by design, and scaffold personal development. Implementation plans include details of how module and programme teams are supported to address inclusion and bring forward changes:

From early 2023 onwards, all new programme proposals will be evaluated against the requirements of the new Frameworks as part of the new programme approval process. Current programmes will also be reviewed against the requirements of the new Frameworks, with ~20% of programmes to be reviewed each year. Programmes with long-standing equality gaps will be selected for early review.

2. Personal Academic Tutoring (PAT)

PAT allows students to have conversations which support their academic progress, sense of belonging, continuation, and attainment, and signposting to relevant services such as wellbeing, study skills and careers. A range of training events and resources support practice aligned to the principles of the PAT policy and student engagement with tutorials. PAT was a critical support mechanism for students working remotely during the pandemic.

Awarding Gaps

Eliminating the awarding gap between white and black students remains the University’s principal APP challenge. The gap is also one of the University’s institutional performance measures, which are used to monitor progress against our strategic framework aims and goals. The approaches described in this section were developed after the APP was submitted in 2019 and will continue into 2023/24.

1. Attainment Policy

The University’s Attainment Policy was launched in 2020 to address inequity within the University, whether deliberate, implicit or structural, which contributes to unequal degree outcomes between different groups of students. It demonstrates the University’s commitment to uphold anti-discriminatory practice to enact the commitments of the strategic framework in transforming students’ lives ‘regardless of age, background or location’.

At institutional level, implementation actions include the creation of academic practice and staff development opportunities (including an online ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ programme), workshops across all Colleges to debate race-related issues, a new intranet site with resources to support staff in their understanding of awarding gaps, decolonisation and the diversification of pedagogic practice, targeted support for students on grade borderlines (2:1/2:2), and research to understand the lived experience of students on programmes with the largest, persistent gaps. Actions are reviewed annually by Academic Board, with progress monitored at each meeting of the Board.

At College level, awarding gap plans are created to set priority actions within disciplinary contexts. Progress against the actions is overseen by the College Awarding Gap Steering Groups, which operate to the terms of reference and membership approved by the Academic Board. Progress is reported to the College Quality and Enhancement Committees.

2. Staff Development

‘Let’s Talk About Race’ is a core, online module focusing on inclusion and race that is available to all staff, established, atypical and associate lecturers. A second phase will unpack the content of the module over a series of five workshops, each with a focus on a separate essential element of the training. Race allies will facilitate workshops. These initiatives provide safe spaces for learning conversations and generate momentum. Supporting resources will enable race allies to deliver ‘Let’s Talk About Race 2’ and additional training will develop the role and increase the numbers of active bystanders throughout the University.

3. Culturally Sensitive Curriculum Scales

Culturally sensitive education means that attitudes, teaching methods and practice, teaching and assessment materials, curriculum, and theories relate to each student’s culture, histories, identity, and context. Thomas and Quinlan (2021) developed and validated a new tool, the Culturally Sensitive Curricula Scales (CSCS). In their pilot study, BAME students rated their curricula as less culturally sensitive than their white peers and rated two aspects of engagement (interest and interactions with teachers) lower than their white peers. Culturally insensitive curricula partly explained lower BAME students’ engagement. In two follow-up studies,
using a revised, five-dimensional version of the CSCS, BAME students again rated their curricula as less culturally sensitive.

In 2022, the University collaborated with the Network for Researching and Evaluating University Participation Interventions (NERUPI), the University of Kent (lead institution) and other universities on a research project to further refine the CSCS, including piloting a scale focused on the cultural sensitivity of assessments and an open-ended question about culturally sensitive curricular processes. The project investigated relationships between the CSCS and three main outcomes: students’ interest in their subject, their relationships with teachers, and their satisfaction with teaching. Four programmes (Adult and Mental Health Nursing, Applied Social Work and Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation) took part in the research based on the diversity of the student cohorts and the presence of persistent ethnicity awarding gaps. 91 Year Two students completed a survey to provide their views on the cultural sensitivity of their programmes. The findings, which will be available in autumn 2022, will support the implementation of the Curriculum Design Framework.

4. Race Equality Charter

The University is preparing an application to the Advance HE Race Equality Charter. This process will provide opportunities for debate, reflection, and targeted action in relation to the representation, progression, and success of ethnic minoritized staff and students at the University and help advance race equality. This work will continue into 2023/24. 

Student Support

The University is making a significant strategic shift in how its support services are delivered. A proactive, inclusive approach is being launched which will see a broad range of support offered across the student body. The new model will include a range of IAG for students to support their wellbeing (physical, emotional, and mental health), financial and disability needs. The approach will ensure that students feel supported and connected, thereby enhancing their sense of belonging, participation and lived experience. Support will be delivered through one-to-one, in person, remote and group sessions. Digital support and signposting will be offered to external partners for additional IAG. The following initiatives will commence in 2022/23 and will be evaluated/refined for 2023/24:

1. Financial Health Checks

A Future Finance survey revealed that 63% of students ‘worry about money and debt most or all of the time’. The University’s new financial health checks will provide students with access to a suite of workshops, training and IAG designed to promote healthy money habits and financial wellbeing and empower them with the strategies to plan and improve their longterm financial situation. Students will be able to book a one-to-one session for a bespoke finance health check designed to review current finances and highlight additional external supports and benefits. This approach will be evaluated through will be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, capturing key themes from free text responses, as well as analysis of students (and characteristics) engaging with the service and their continuation rates.

2. Care leaver and care experienced

The University recognises the unique and multiple challenges faced by care leaver and care experienced students, which increases their vulnerability. The support offered during transition will be built upon to provide a new framework of support for students from 2023/24, modelled on the Care Leavers Covenant framework, and working towards the Care Leaver Covenant kitemark. The framework will include access to a range of additional support including a named contact for each student, and fast-tracking to specialist services within Student Services. Work is underway within the University’s Admissions, Student Records and Planning teams to improve data capture for these students.

3. #OwnitDSA

HESA data analysis reveals that disabled students in receipt of the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) have better outcomes than those who are not in receipt of the DSA. To help increase DSA take up rates, the University has published new, detailed, guidance on its website to explain the benefits and how to apply. The University is also embedding the DSA application process into triage and specialist appointments. Students will also benefit from improved access to their medical evidence to support future applications to Non-Medical Help (NMH) providers. The University will monitor DSA take up across Student Services, and NMH partners. Evaluation will include empirical analysis of students’ confidence and growth because of the support provided. In conjunction with external partners, data will be captured to highlight the growth in DSA take up and the impact upon degree outcomes and continuation.

4. Get tech, Go!

Over 75% of disabled students receive a technology package (including training) to support their studies and remove barriers to participation. However, fewer than 22% of students take up the training, meaning that they may not be able to fully utilise the equipment. Student feedback highlighted that digital literacy and confidence are key barriers for disabled students. Get tech, Go! aims to improve access and up-take of Assistive Technology (AT) and IT support and narrow the digital divide through workshops to highlight the benefits. The workshops demonstrate inbuilt accessibility functions, freely available apps, and bespoke software on our network, which support disabled students. A web space with further tools and resources is in development. Distance travelled will be evaluated via empirical analysis of student confidence and growth relating to the use of AT and IT. Data analysis will identify the increased take up of AT and IT training and the impact upon degree outcomes and continuation.

5. Buddy Scheme

A survey led by Student Minds revealed that 75% of students disclosed a mental health problem to a friend first. The new Buddy Scheme will help increase student confidence, selfesteem, improve overall wellbeing, and foster a stronger sense of community and belonging. The scheme, which will complement specialist mentoring and counselling support, will be co-created with students to secure maximum benefit. During Year 1, the scheme will focus on students with disabilities, care leavers and international students. It will include a range of activities for buddies in conjunction with internal stakeholders such as the Union of Students and will be supervised by qualified practitioners. There will also be dedicated web pages to promote the scheme.

Evaluation captured via empirical analysis of students’ confidence and growth and qualitative analysis of free text responses will locate themes relating to benefits. This two-fold approach will enable us to place students' views at the heart of the evaluation. Case studies capture both peer support providers and recipients. Student Services use qualitative data to monitor the success and progression of participants.

The following support mechanisms were introduced during the pandemic and will continue into 2023/24 to support successful student participation:

6. College Student Centres and Advisors

The University launched College Student Centres (CSCs) in 2019/20 to provide dedicated services across extended opening hours. CSCs are staffed with skilled advisors as the first point of contact for students and academics day-to-day teaching, learning and wellbeing related queries. In addition, the University created a new Personal College Advisor (PCA) scheme at the onset of the pandemic to provide a co-ordinated information service at a time where students were feeling vulnerable following the shift to facilitated remote learning. PCAs offer IAG to students and deliver key on-programme support activities.

7. Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme

The scheme was launched by the Union of Students in 2020/21 as a digital offer specifically targeted at foundation and first year students. 32 students were appointed and trained to fulfil the paid role of PAL Leader and to provide student-to-student support for transition and progression through academic study. PAL sessions offer a safe, friendly place to help students adjust quickly to university life, improve their study habits, gain a clear view of course direction and expectations and enhance their understanding of subject matter through group discussion. The scheme was adapted to integrate complimentary in-person workshops as pandemic restrictions were relaxed. Approximately 550 students participated in the scheme throughout 2020.

8. Study Skills

The University’s Skills Team changed its approach during the pandemic to increase effectiveness and reach a significantly larger audience. The Study Skills Advisor Scheme was repurposed, and the resource reassigned to work with students in co-creating compelling multiplatform/multi-format content. The service delivered academic skills support through YouTube, Podcasts and Skills Guides. This offer proved to be very popular, with significant viewing/listening figures (over 20,000 in 2020/21) and over 70,000 impressions of the Skills Guides. The content featured heavily in the University’s online applicant package, a range of services and departments across the University, and new induction activities. In 2020/21, the University launched StudyFest, a calendar of online events, freely accessible to our students and stakeholders, aimed at boosting academic resilience. The first and second StudyFest were delivered online due to the pandemic.

9. Digital Equity

A high proportion of the University’s students are from low socio-economic backgrounds and the pandemic left their studies vulnerable to disruption. Following the closure of the University campuses, over 300 students contacted the University to explain they did not have access (or priority access) to a device at home. The University responded by launching a laptop loan scheme. Broadband hardware was also purchased for students who were unable to access the internet. Eligibility criteria was not applied during this phase to ensure that no student would be left without a device. The University has continued to offer the laptop loan scheme with additional investment in IT devices and connectivity to secure greater digital equity. 

Graduate Outcomes

The University’s Careers and Employability Service (CES) provides specialist 1:1 advice to support students and recent graduates to make informed decisions about their future. CES collaborates with academic colleges to deliver employability themed activities and assessments throughout the student journey. From 2022/23 onwards, new College Careers Operational Priorities Plans capture key employability objectives and activities, locally. Progress will be monitored quarterly by CES College Careers Partners. Plans include a series of APP-related action points, including analysis of progression data for underrepresented students, developing a greater understanding of the challenges faced by underrepresented students and how best to support their employability journey, including consideration of successful practices and initiatives from across the sector.

CES has overseen the development, delivery, and evaluation of the following initiatives to support strong graduate outcomes, which will continue into 2023/24:

1. Finalist Futures

In response to the impact of the pandemic on the graduate labour market, the University launched a finalist campaign in 2019/20, making personal contact with final year students, using digital resources, and giving tailored advice by telephone, Microsoft Teams meetings and online workshops. The Finalist Futures Campaign is a continuous project, running alongside Careers Registration data collection and the HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey.

2. Derby Talent Programme

CES offers a variety of internship opportunities for students and recent graduates. These range from 80-hour internships up to 400-hour graduate internships with local employers across D2N2. The programmes are designed for students who have limited/no work experience. Students can also take part in alternative work experience such as completing a live brief within their degree programme, with input provided from both CES and employers.

3. Placement Academy Programme

Level 5 students who have the option to complete a year in industry placement are offered tailored IAG to obtain a suitable placement year. Over 260 students have registered their interest and working through the supported process to obtain a paid placement with a relevant employer.

4. Student Employment Agency (SEA)

The agency is exclusive to University of Derby students and graduates. The SEA advertises paid, temporary job opportunities throughout the University and with local employers. It seeks to create opportunities for students to earn whilst they learn and offer experiences which can often lead to permanent employment upon graduation.

Priority D: Develop more flexible and diverse provision

The University has a long history of partnership working to develop flexible and diverse post-16 destinations to help students with the ambition, desire, and potential to succeed. Examples include:

1. Buxton and Leek College (BLC)

BLC is part of the University of Derby Group and provides technical and professional education and training through its range of vocational qualifications for school leavers (including BTECs, NVQs and T Levels) apprenticeships, adult learning opportunities (short courses traineeships, return to work programmes), Access to Higher Education Diplomas (including online pathways), and a range of higher education programmes. The University is one of only two higher education providers that offer apprenticeships spanning levels 2-7 across a wide range of occupations. This offer supports over 300 employers and 2000 apprentices each year.

2. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships (HADA)

The University was an early adopter of HADAs. Its current offer focuses on priority sectors to meet the needs of the local economy. These include Health and Social Care, Policing, Teaching, Science and Engineering. The University continually updates its portfolio to meet the needs of a competitive and changing market.

3. Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs)

The University is committed to developing new technical routes at Levels 4 and 5. Its first HTQ in Health was approved to commence in September 2022. Further submissions are planned to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) for additional HTQ approvals, to be launched in waves over the coming years.

4. Accelerated courses

The University’s intensive accelerated courses provide an alternative route for students who want to complete a degree in a shorter time frame than usual, saving time and money. Its initial offer includes the Law LLB, and Professional Policing in partnership with the Nottinghamshire Police, the latter being the first of its kind in the UK.

5. Part-time, online

The University offers over 100 part-time options specially designed for online study. This ranges from stand-alone modules which are available as short credit bearing courses, and non-credit bearing courses for CPD, to apprenticeships and full UG and PG online degrees.

6. East Midlands Institute of Technology (EM IoT)

The University has recently won a bid to establish the EM IoT in partnership with Derby College, Loughborough University and Loughborough College. The EM IoT will bring together further and higher education colleagues to focus on levelling up the critical engineering, manufacturing and digital skills needed by employers. 

Expansion: Our relevant and accessible offer can benefit people across the East Midlands and beyond. The following work will continue into 2022/23 and 2023/24:

Understanding the impact of this work is critical. As well as developing case studies to allow apprentices and employers to describe the impact of apprenticeships and skills on individuals, business and communities, the University is seeking external funding to establish a group to explore the impact of apprenticeship and skills on mobility. The University is engaging in national research to explore the current diversity of its apprenticeship body and how it can improve this. It has board membership of the University Awards Council (UVAC), works closely with the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) and other agencies to understand diversity in the apprenticeship population. This will be a key area of focus as the University continues to develop its civic mission. 


The University has developed a new APP Evaluation Framework, Toolkit and Knowledge Hub to help generate robust evidence of what works in our access and participation activity, and to support our colleagues to develop their own evaluation practice. Our evaluation findings are shared externally, working with the NERUPI and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes (TASO) to maximise the sector’s understanding of what works.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Derby
July 2022