Methodological Principles and Practice
Edited By Michael Grenfell and Frédéric Lebaron
Widening Participation in Higher Education: Capital that Counts
Even before the release of the Browne Report in 2010, the UK field of higher education (HE) had experienced significant changes. Already expanding admissions figures (Maringe and Fuller 2006) were given new impetus by the 1997 Dearing Report and the renewed emphasis on widening participation which was underpinned by a social justice and economic rationale (DfES 2003a, 2003b). The expectation was that HE would contribute to enhancing national competitiveness in the global economy while simultaneously supporting social cohesion and equality (Naidoo 2000; Osborne 2003).
Despite a significant increase in the proportion of students securing the qualifications required to enter, and the number actually participating in HE, under-representation of those from less privileged social backgrounds is a persistent problem (Reay et al. 2005). Participation has increased to a much greater extent than it has widened (Gilchrist et al. 2003) and it is noteworthy that ‘the most disadvantaged young people are seven times less likely than the most advantaged to attend the most selective institutions’ (BIS 2011: 6).
For many, getting to university is itself an achievement (Clegg et al. 2006), and while doing so might there afford opportunities, the literature suggests that students from non-traditional backgrounds encounter a range of challenges that can impact significantly on their performance, retention and experiences (see, for example, Ozga and Sukhnandan 1998; Yorke 2001a; Thomas 2002; Leathwood and O’Connell 2003; May and Bousted 2004; Sambell and Hubbard 2004). With growing appreciation ← 97 | 98 → of the depth...
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