NFER evaluation of the Reach for Excellence Programme
(2007 to 2012)
The Reach for Excellence Programme (RfE) aims to support able young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Yorkshire to gain a place at a top university. Young people enter the programme in Year 12 and complete it when finishing their A-level studies in Year 13. Participants receive a comprehensive package of guidance, including subject taster sessions, study skills workshops, impartial pre-entry guidance, financial literacy sessions, e-mentoring and a residential summer school. All of these elements are designed to raise aspirations, boost confidence, and provide accurate and realistic guidance.
Commissioned by the Sutton Trust, the NFER is carrying out a longitudinal evaluation of the RfE programme. Overall, the evaluation explores how many young people go on to a research-led university (as well as numbers entering higher education), who might not otherwise have done so. To date, the evaluation has tracked the first three cohorts of young people as they progressed from Year 12 to Year 13, supported by RfE. As well as following the experiences of students participating in the programme, the research has included a ‘comparison group’ of similar pupils. It has also tracked the first two cohorts of students into their first and second year at university, or otherwise, following their completion of the RfE programme.
Key findings from across the evaluation programme to date include:
- In line with the aims of RfE, students on the RfE programme tend to choose to study at research intensive universities. The combined data from cohorts 1 and 2 suggests that students on the RfE programme are significantly more likely to choose a research intensive university compared with students not on the programme (the comparison group) and the high level of applications to research intensive universities continued in Cohort 3.
- After completing the programme students felt that the main benefit of RfE was that it improved their knowledge about university, in particular with relation to their applications to university, study skills and student finance.
- Retention rates are high among RfE students. All of the university students who have continued to participate in the evaluation either one of two years after completing the programme are still enrolled on their degree course. This suggests that the programme has lasting benefits on the young people involved.
- Students who had completed the RfE programme up to three years ago were able to reflect on how they felt the programme benefited them since leaving. Students felt the programme had helped them make the decision on whether to attend university and helped them to succeed with their application to their chosen university.
The key findings for Cohort 1 can be found here
The key findings for Cohort 2 can be found here
The key findings for Cohort 3 can be found here
The key findings for school and college staff can be found here