Widening participation has always been a core value for The Open University, and is reflected in our open access policy. This commitment has been reaffirmed in recent years and is now encompassed in our institution-wide Widening Participation Strategy 2009-12. This sets out challenging targets along with responsibilities for activity across the University that will help us reach these targets. Co-ordination of the strategy and its implementation is led by the Director, Students, and the Head of Widening Participation in Student Services.
The Strategy adopts a lifecycle approach that encompasses recruitment, retention and attainment within a Four Nations context, and focuses on some of the key challenges within the higher education sector at this time. Our recruitment targets focus on students from low socio-economic groups living in the most disadvantaged communities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These students continue to be significantly under represented in the higher education population as a whole. In retention and attainment, our focus is on supporting these students to complete courses and achieve good grades, and additionally to reduce the gap in retention and achievement between students from black and minority ethnic groups and other students. This gap in performance is a further key challenge facing the higher education sector as a whole.
The targeted and focused activity set out in our Widening Participation Strategy sits within a broader context of equality and inclusion, and The Open University's Widening Participation Strategic Assessment submitted to HEFCE in June 2009 reflects this broader picture.