Research & Impact - Aimhigher West Midlands


Aimhigher supports the government goal of improving the social mobility and higher education progression rates of disadvantaged groups targeted within the Uni Connect programme and Access and Participation Plans (APPs). The Office for Students (OfS) outline that partnerships need to evaluate the impact of their activities and build an evidence base to establish what works. The local Aimhigher research team have employed robust approaches to evaluate the impact of activities using both quantitative and qualitative designs which you will see summarised here.

The Ethnicity Awarding Gap in the West Midlands

In this project, Aimhigher West Midlands, together with Prof. Chris Millward, aim to understand the characteristics of the ethnicity awarding gap across the West Midlands region, what universities are doing to tackle it and what they have learned from this (i.e. what appears to work in which context).

The gap in the West Midlands region resembles the national gap, where White learners are more likely to be awarded a first or upper-second class degree than learners from other ethnic backgrounds. This gap is particularly pronounced between White and Black students.


The National Outreach Coverage Project

The National Outreach Coverage Project is a collaborative research project which examines the coverage of outreach delivery across England.


The following resources provide the outputs from this project and can be downloaded using the links below:

National Outreach Coverage Dataset

Supporting Information

Maps Visualising the Dataset

The resources can be used to:

  • Identify schools and colleges in England which have received relatively little outreach delivery over the last three academic years.
  • Identify schools and colleges in England which have or have not received certain types of activities over the last three academic years.
  • Identify schools and colleges in England which appear to have received disproportionately high volumes of outreach delivery over the last three academic years.
  • Determine how many other providers are working in schools/colleges in your operational area.
  • Facilitate collaboration between providers working in local areas.
  • The dataset may also be of value in identifying ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ spots nationally, as well as the contribution of different types of provider to all outreach delivered nationally.

The project used data collected by three tracker services: Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT), Aimhigher West Midlands and East Midlands Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Partnership (EMWPREP) and data from large third sector organisations not currently using a tracking service.

The Outreach Coverage Dataset provides details of outreach activities delivered per school or further education (FE) college in England between 2017/18 and 2019/20.

If you’d like to view the launch webinar for the project, you can do so here.

If you have any questions or feedback on the dataset, please email

Aimhigher Phase 2 Evaluation Plan

The Aimhigher evaluation plan outlines the approach and outcomes that the partnership will employ to establish the impact of the Uni Connect programme including ‘what works’ and in what contexts. The plan was reviewed by the Office for Students and rated as excellent and as representing sector leading practice. The plan has been shared widely across the sector.

The plan outlines how the partnership is combining both quantitative and qualitative approaches. This includes employing a quasi-experiment approach to evaluate the impact of the scheme by comparing outcomes of learners that have (intervention group) and have not (comparison group) engaged. The methodology employs a matched group design and addresses many of the gaps in previous research, such as lack of comparison groups / controls and poor sampling methods.


HE Progression

The key strategic priority of the Aimhigher Plus Programme is to increase the higher education (HE) progression rates of target Aimhigher Plus students via engagement within a programme of interventions delivered by the partnership of universities and schools and colleges.

This report summarises findings from an initial descriptive analysis of the progression rates of two cohorts of Aimhigher learners and their HE progression rates (UCAS acceptance) in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 cycles. The evaluation employs a mixed methods approach to track the UCAS progression outcomes of a cohort over 1300 learners. A quasi-experimental design was employed where outcomes are compared between a treatment and non-treatment group of learners. This evidence is contextualised with a number of learner and school based case studies. The report summarises findings from phase 1 of the study and suggests that there is an association between levels of engagement and HE progression outcomes. Phase two of this study is currently in progress and includes more rigorous statistical testing of these results. Later phases of the study will involve bringing more controls into the analysis (e.g. prior attainment, demographic and socio-economic characteristics).

Aimhigher Impact Evaluation Study (2020)

Raising Attainment

MyTutor is an important part of the Aimhigher Plus programme, as it provides academic enrichment to raise KS4 and KS5 students’ GCSE attainment. Tutors provide one-to-one subject-specific support, online over a number of weeks.

Findings from the 2018/19 academic year demonstrate that the programme had a significant impact on improving students’ attainment. The findings compare the attainment outcomes of an intervention group and comparison group who did not receive the online tutoring. The impact of the programme is growing, with a +0.6 grade increase in 2017/18 and a +1 grade increase in 2018/19.

MyTutor Summary Report

Impact Case Studies

In May 2018, Aimhigher commissioned Cosmos Engagement to conduct a qualitative evaluation. Our aim was to establish the extent to which the local programme had supported positive student outcomes (12 students) and partnership working (what is working well and key challenges) within seven urban and rural schools and colleges. The case studies employed a 360-degree approach, which included feedback from students, their parents and carers and school and college representatives. This included interviews, online diaries and video case studies. The research explored the distance travelled by Aimhigher Plus students in terms of where they were before and after they had participated within the Aimhigher Plus programme. Findings provide positive insights into the impact of the Aimhigher Plus programme in terms of the life changing impact reported by parents and carers, school practitioners and students themselves. Findings suggest that the Aimhigher Plus programme has supported students in terms of an increased likelihood of applying to HE, an increased knowledge and awareness of HE, improved behaviour, increased confidence, motivation and attitudes towards education and in some cases improved attainment. The full report and video case studies can be accessed below:

Aimhigher Case Study Impact Report

"Aimhigher was 100% one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s a really big help, I feel a lot less stressed and I’ve improved my schoolwork."

Download Jess' Case Study

"My goals for the future are definitely to go to university and study engineering, because I’ve got a passion for that and I’ve learnt that through Aimhigher."

Download Connor's Case Study

"Aimhigher and college support has been fundamental in my offer from Cambridge University, mainly in terms of helping to turn my dream into a reality by providing funding, access to knowledge and support."

Download Julia's Case Study

"Medical Mavericks opened up a whole new spectrum of jobs I could go for. I still look through the booklet they gave us."

Download Rhiannon's Case Study

"Aimhigher’s really helped with my knowledge of school and how it is really important, and helping me know what I need to get in my GCSEs to get to where I need to."

Download Christopher's Case Study

"Aimhigher has had a big impact on me as a person and career-wise. It’s helped me focus more on grades and my future and develop my knowledge of things outside of school."

Download Dominic's Case Study

"I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone because now I’m somewhere where I can say, “if I want to do something, I can do it”. If everyone else is going to university it doesn’t mean I have to. I can follow my own path. I wouldn’t have realised this without the help of Aimhigher."

Download Taylor's Case Study

"Aimhigher had a significant impact on me because It helped me change my habits and ways in how I was going about life in general, and helped me focus more on what’s important. I am now looking into completing a degree apprenticeship in engineering."

Download Christian's Case Study

"Aimhigher has really helped me to understand more what I want to do when I’m older and what paths I have available to me, which helps me be less stressed about it."

Download Kiri's Case Study

"I think overall, Aimhigher has been a positive experience. It’s changed my views on school and education massively. Now I know school will help me get to where I want to go, which is to go to university to become a primary school teacher."

Download Parris' Case Study

"I was just worried that science was going to be a hard topic and not that interesting, but the Aimhigher programme definitely helped me decide that I want to be a vet."

Download Olivia's Case Study

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