Contact Us

Benchmark 7 – Encounters with Further & Higher Education

Encounters with Higher & Further Education

Meaningful encounters with providers cover a wide range of ways young people can learn about their compulsory post-school options. They provide off-site visits and direct interactions with key institutions, staff, and alumni. Covering the full range of learning opportunities available to students.




What good looks like

All students should understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both technical and academic routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.

  • By the age of 16, every student should have had a meaningful encounter* with providers of the full range of educational opportunities, including sixth forms, colleges, universities and apprenticeship providers. This should include the opportunity to meet both staff and students.
  • By the age of 18, all students who are considering applying for university should have had at least two visits to universities to meet staff and students.
  • By the age of 18, or before the end of their programme of study, every student should have had a meaningful encounter with a range of providers of learning and training that may form the next stage of their career. This should include, as appropriate, further education colleges, higher education and apprenticeship and training providers. This should include the opportunity to meet both staff and students.

*A ‘meaningful encounter’ is one in which the student has an opportunity to explore what it is like to learn in that environment. This includes academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and the workplace.

What is a meaningful encounter?


Meaningful encounters with providers cover a wide range of ways young people can learn about their post-compulsory school options. They provide off-site visits and direct interactions with key roles, such as lecturers, and current students of apprenticeships.

My school does not have a 6th form, do I need to provide two encounters with universities?


No, the requirement is one encounter by the age of 16 so you only need to provide one.

There is no sixth form within commutable distance, how do we meet this requirement?


The key word here is meaningful. If there is no sixth form that is accessible to the majority of students then there is no point in promoting an option that is not a realistic option. However, this is where the work of Careers Advisers (BM 8) may help to identify provision or opportunities that should be highlighted to individual students and their families

Do the two visits apply to students who aren't considering University?


The requirement state those ‘who are considering applying for university’, however, you should ensure that students are aware of all options and are being encouraged to consider aspirational outcomes, of course, this does not always mean university and should be applied to those it is relevant for.

How can I offer meaningful encounters with Independent Training Provider?


An Independent Training Provider could be any institution providing a recognised pathway into work or training which can include apprenticeships, pre employment basic level training or recognised vocational training.

What is our legal duty on providing access to providers of technical education and apprenticeships?


The government introduced a new legal duty from January 2018 which requires all maintained schools and academies to ensure there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access all pupils for the purposes of informing them about approved technical education qualifications. Schools are required to publish a Provider Access Policy on their websites setting out when and how providers can access students through the year.

A new law is expected to come into force in January 2023 which will change an important area of the work we do together to support young people and the provider access requirements. More information HERE.

Do I need to provide encounters and information about all options to all students, even if they are set on going to university?

Yes, it is important that all students, whatever their ability, understand the full range of options available to them so they can make an informed choice when making decisions at 16 and 18. This includes the full range of learning locations and
qualifications on offer.

Careers Leaders may need to help teaching staff and others across the school understand all the options available to students.

Key points

  • The school or college works in the best interests of the student and does not actively promote one option over another
  • Students are informed of all their different options in Years 7-9 including apprenticeships, sixth form, Further Education and Higher Education provision


  • Key messages around career and progression pathways should be reinforced in Years 10-11 and again in 12 and 13.
  • Staff avoid making judgements about the prestige and status of different pathways and providers in case you unwittingly influence your students inappropriately

Why this Benchmark matters

  • 26% of young people who received free school meals (FSM) in year 11 are not in education or employment (NEET) aged 18-24, compared to 13% of non-FSM students
  • High achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to apply to higher education, attend a high-status university or access high-status professional jobs than similarly qualified peers from more affluent backgrounds
  • FSM students make up only 16.7% of students in KS5 (16-18 years) academic pathways in comparison to 28% on vocational pathways Bit report
  • 1,400 more students were in sustained EET during 2018/19 connected to the level of guidance provision that schools in the sample reported, compared to a scenario in which all schools had reported zero benchmark provision. 1488_destinations_report_final.pdf (
    “It is not enough for young people to develop career ambitions, they must also have access to sufficient information and support to broaden ambitions and to inform self-awareness of what it takes to achieve their aspirations and enable progression towards career goals.”