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International Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy

A Reader


Edited By Virginia Stead

The promise of this admission policy reader arises from the embodiment of research from 58 authors, six continents, 20 time zones, 20+ first languages, and a broad array of research methodologies. Four sections aggregate key themes within the text:
(1) National Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy;
(2) Theoretical Approaches to Higher Education Admission Policy;
(3) Applicant Recruitment and Student Support Services in Higher Education; and
(4) Diversity and Equity in Higher Education Admission Policy Implementation.
This book's global chorus of professional experience, investigation, and insight is unprecedented in its breadth and depth, illuminating a rare swath of challenges and opportunities that Internet-sourced international higher education makes visible. Although each chapter is an independent research report, together they generate a new landscape for admission policy orientation, exploration, and activism. The sheer range of policies and organizational infrastructure will alert all readers to many complexities within the admissions process that remain invisible within single or multiple but similar cultural and political contexts.
Many of these authors have demonstrated courage along with their intellectual acumen in tackling politically sensitive, culturally taboo, and personally dangerous topics within their research. Theirs is a moving testimony to the global quest for fairness within the world of admission policy implementation and to the power of access to higher education. Together, we are determined to advance equitable admissions praxis within all institutions of higher learning and promising futures for all students.
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31 Contextual Higher Education Admissions as UK Affirmative Action: A Conceptual and Policy Analysis


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Contextual Higher Education Admissions as UK Affirmative Action

A Conceptual and Policy Analysis

Laura C. Lane and Gareth Parry


In February 2011 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS) issued Guidance to the Director of Fair Access, which formalised the support of the Conservative-led Coalition for the use of contextual data in higher education admissions:

We recognise that, if selective institutions are to make progress in admitting more students with high potential from disadvantaged backgrounds, they may want to admit such students on the basis of lower entry qualifications than they would normally apply. To help them identify individuals with the greatest potential, institutions may sometimes want to use contextual data. The Government believes that this is a valid and appropriate way for institutions to broaden access while maintaining excellence, so long as individuals are considered on their merits, and institutions’ procedures are fair, transparent and evidence-based. (DBIS, 2011a, para 5.3)

In practice, examples of contextual data can include residence in an area of low participation in higher education and/or with high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage or attendance at a low-performing school or college. From the theoretical perspective, it is suggested here that the concept of affirmative action provides a lens through which to explore the ideological underpinnings of contextual admissions as a policy aspiration.

Pro-active and interventionist by nature, affirmative action aims to address persistent social...

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