NFER Evaluation of Realising Opportunities, 2009-2013

Emily Lamont, Helen Aston, Kelly Kettlewell

16 May 2014

Evaluation of Realising Opportunities Cohort 1
Evaluation of Realising Opportunities Cohort 2
Evaluation of Realising Opportunities Cohort 3

Realising Opportunities (RO) is a unique collaboration of leading universities, working together to encourage and support the 'most able but least likely' students to apply to research intensive universities. Participating students enrol in a two-year structured programme from Year 12, which provides a range of activities designed to raise their aspirations to progress to research intensive universities. Successful completion of the programme leads to recognition at the point of application to one of the Partners, where students may receive an alternative offer through UCAS.

NFER evaluated the impact of RO on the first three cohorts of students. For each cohort we did this through a baseline survey of students (completed near the beginning of Year 12) and a follow-up survey of students (completed towards the end of Year 13, available below). Alongside the surveys, we also undertook analysis of UCAS and student contextual data.

Key Findings

  • RO appears to be meeting its aims. Across the three cohorts, most students applied to and accepted firm offers from universities. The proportion of students applying to research intensive universities, and in particular RO partner universities, was high across the three cohorts.
  • In all three cohorts, students' knowledge of research intensive universities increased after completing the programme, as did their understanding of the importance of applying to such universities.
  • Students from across the three cohorts cited similar benefits of participating in RO. Students believed they had developed the skills to be successful in a research intensive university, including: study skills; ability to reference academic sources; knowledge about different courses at university; and ability to set goals.
  • In all cohorts, students also showed a greater satisfaction with the independent advice and guidance they have received after their involvement with RO compared with before they started on the programme.

The three reports for the three individual cohorts are available here: