OC&C and PwC support The Access Project with growth

13 December 2018 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

The Access Project helps disadvantaged young people get into university. In recent years, the programme has extended its reach exponentially, thanks in part to pro-bono work from strategy consultancy OC&C and Big Four firm PwC, as well as a partnership with private equity charity Impetus-PEF.

London-based non-profit The Access Project is an education charity that helps bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds beat the odds and secure places at top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, where they make up less than 4% of the intake. A young person who has participated in The Access Project’s programme is more than twice as likely to go to a top university when compared to another student with the same academic track record and background.

What began as a programme operating in a cluster of schools in North London, is now a multi-site programme with operations in the East and West Midlands. The Access Project has expanded from 15 to 31 schools, more than doubling the number of young people the organisation works with from 530 in 2014 to 1,240 four years later. To facilitate growth, The Access Project partnered with Impetus-PEF, a charity which helps organisations for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds become high performing organisations.

Impetus-PEF goes about this by providing strategic core funding to improve capacity and performance, as well as dedicated support from an investment director, while supplementing this with skilled volunteer support from a 350 strong network of the top UK corporates. Impetus-PEF has a portfolio of 17 charities who it supports to improve their impact, assisting them with the scaling up of operations that more disadvantaged young people can benefit. In this instance, working with The Access Project, Impetus-PEF helped assess the funding opportunities open to them and to diversify their funding model. With turnover of £1.8 million, The Access Project now sees money coming from schools, corporate partners, major donors, grant-making trusts, and universities.

The Access Project has expanded on all fronts with the help of Impetus-PEF

On the road to this growth, Impetus-PEF enlisted strategy consultants OC&C to undertake a significant pro bono project looking at how The Access Project could access funding from university widening participation budgets (this is dedicated funding for widening university participation mandated from universities charging the higher level of fees). A member of Impetus-PEF’s fundraising team, who specialises in high net worth donors, also worked with The Access Project on their donor engagement strategy.

Meanwhile, Impetus-PEF linked The Access Project up with high quality IT support via its pro bono partner PwC, to help build an IT platform which could support the new data gathering and make it as easy as possible for staff to track progress in a more live way, for every single student enrolled in the programme. PwC worked predominantly with the Impact Manager at The Access Project to assess their performance management requirements and translate this into the technical needs for the new IT system. As well as helping with the design of the project, PwC helped The Access Project to choose the right supplier.

Growing impact

The involvement of Impetus-PEF and the consulting firms seems to have significantly boosted The Access Project’s impact and reach. In 2014, when the Impetus-PEF was first engaged, just over half of the pupils the charity was working with were from disadvantaged backgrounds, while 66% of those applied to a selective university and 33% got in. By 2017, over 90% of The Access Project pupils came from disadvantaged backgrounds and of those, 85% applied to a selective university, and 53% got in.

Remarking on the next steps, Investment Director, Sebastian Ergas said, "We’ve been pretty internally focused so far. The partnership will now shift. We needed to develop the programme and demonstrate results. Now it's time to look at future growth."

To this end, in 2018, Impetus-PEF already committed another £900,000 to The Access Project, to take the partnership to 2021 and to bring new funders. The charity plans to double again its number of students, with the aim of working with 2,500 by 2021, across 50 schools, and moving into a fourth region.

Commenting on the growing role of The Access Project, Chris Millward, Director of Widening Participation and Fair Access at the Office for Students, commended The Access Project for “demonstrably helping young people to unlock their potential…Their programme … is a great example of the sustained, targeted, collaborative and robustly evaluated work we need into the future.”