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Why Evaluate? A widening participation symposium

Monday 27th November 2017

University of Sheffield

Richard Shiner (Head of Evidence and Effective Practice, OFFA)
Alex Wardrop (Evidence and Effective Practice Manager, OFFA).

The symposium was intended to encourage learning and debate about the role of evaluation in supporting and sustaining access and participation in higher education. Creating collaborative spaces to share a wide range of expertise and experiences forms an essential element of OFFA’s approach to evidence. In facilitating events like Why Evaluate and ensuring that the ideas developed get disseminated, we hope to enhance understanding, build networks and, critically, lead to continuous improvements of practice.

The symposium and the resources collected here enables the wide sharing of examples of effective practice and ideas for evaluation in different contexts. Evaluation is an ever growing, complex and often contested field of research. This event did not attempt to simplify the issues or provide a ‘one-size- fits-all’ approach. But this complexity does not mean we can’t do anything. In enabling a thorough understanding of how you can invest in activity and resource that best enables access and participation in your own context, evaluation must be integral to all the work we do. 

Evaluation is more than just a tick box exercise. It is about collaborative learning, critical reflection and continuous improvement. Working closely with students, for example, can make sure that what you are doing stays relevant and is informed by the lived experiences of those communities it is intended to serve. In delivering effective practice for access and participation shaped by evaluation, we can challenge persistent inequalities and change lives for the better. We look forward to seeing the integral role that evaluation for driving improvements in access and participation practice, research and policy grow in the future.