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Www.monash.edu Presented by Professor Sue Webb, Faculty of Education, Monash University The 'widening participation' agenda in VET and higher education.

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Presentation on theme: "Www.monash.edu Presented by Professor Sue Webb, Faculty of Education, Monash University The 'widening participation' agenda in VET and higher education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presented by Professor Sue Webb, Faculty of Education, Monash University The 'widening participation' agenda in VET and higher education in the UK – what does it mean and for whom?

2 Overview -Widening participation in UK - overview -Relevant literature - overview -An empirical case of F/HE transitions -Key issues and findings -New understandings?

3 From elite to mass system

4 Widening participation in UK overview A largely unplanned shift from elite to mass higher education until early 1990s led to more WP Regulated expansion by funding followed Late 1990s, a mass system had massive inequities, & institutional stratification, old binaries continued From 1997 the New Labour Government targets expansion using institutional funding levers to recruit equity groups & promote social mobility

5 Widening participation in UK overview By 21st century, equity targeting isn’t enough! High level skills are needed to compete in globalised knowledge economies (Leitch, 2006; DIUS 2008) Divided academic/vocational pathways restrict potential for social mobility through tertiary education (HEFCE, 2004) In England the policy response: Funding for new sub-bachelors Foundation degrees Funding to expand vocational pathways to HE via institutional partnerships –Lifelong Learning Networks of FE and HE

6 Literature - overview Research about participation in HE tells us… System massification, associates with differentiation and stratification (Trow, 1999) Patterns of participation and equity are enduring (Bourdieu; Tomlinson, 2005) Institutional discourses & practices need to be a key focus (Foucault; Burton Clark, 1966) Individual experiences – risky transitions need to be understood (Bourdieu; Reay et al 2001)

7 Vocational transitions literature (1) Those entering UK universities through vocational qualification routes enter less prestigious institutions (Crozier et al. 2008; Connor & Little, 2007; Foster, 2009; Hoelscher et al., 2008; Purcell et al., 2009). This is an enduring pattern that replicates earlier system expansion in the 1980s- early 1990s (see Webb et al 1994) Vocational qualifications as hybrids (Davey & Fuller,2010) are weakly occupational and weak currency for academic transfer But expansion of the English system has continued in FE and middle and lower tariff universities where hybrid vocational qualifications are most accepted (Purcell et al., 2009)

8 Vocational transitions literature (2) This pattern of vocational qualifications with weak academic currency for tertiary education progression is found in other countries (Australia) with vocational- academic status divide in upper secondary & post compulsory education (Harris et al, 2005; Moodie & Wheelahan, 2009) Transfer from vocational to academic tertiary education is limited even in countries like Germany with high status VET (Hoeckel & Schwartz, 2010)

9 How are vocational qualification routes and the UK policy mechanism of Lifelong Learning Networks (LLNs) operating to widen participation to research intensive universities? The research question

10 The transition: from the local college to the ‘red brick’ on the hill…

11 The case study… Mainly qualitative study Drawn from one regional LLN in England Focusing on the policies, practices & experiences of staff in a research-led university in the LLN And the students who entered this institution with vocational qualifications from the FE sector

12 Lifelong learning networks explained Usually Further/Higher Education consortia Most HEIs in England engaged Focus on vocational routes to HE Changing demand/supply for skills & people Focus on curricula in F/HE, cultures and practices, expanding new sub-bachelors, the Foundation degree in FE

13 Data collection at institutional level, Interviews with key leaders & managers Interviews with practitioners & student transition support staff Analysis of documents Interviews with other Network members including advice and guidance workers

14 Data collection at student level Analysis of admissions data Survey of vocational entry students in two faculties (Medicine & Engineering) In-depth qualitative interviews (repeated)with sub-sample & key individuals in their networks of influence

15 The case study HEI… A global university Mid range elite HEI Tension between global & local WP – a strong commitment, and long institutional narrative Yet WP – a ‘cream’ skimming activity Bursaries to reward the highest achievers & access given only to highest tariff

16 Findings (1)… Tensions heightened at faculty & departmental level closest to Learning & Teaching Department learning cultures premised on traditional A(cademic) level entrants’ characteristics Assumes students have high levels of social & cultural capital and the selection of the most able Characteristics of academics similarly very selective & prime focus of their role is on research activity rather than teaching

17 Findings (2)… Students report learning culture dissonance compared to Further Education as in… Large student cohorts Intensification of workload Lack of personalised support Support is voluntaristic, when available

18 Findings (3)… Staff report… High commitment to WP Developing institutional arrangements Responsive behaviour to make it work Frustration at the difficulties faced by themselves and students High transactional costs

19 Student Biographies ‘Emily’ BTEC entrant to University Progressed from FE College Institutional resistance to aspiration Working class background Aunt attended University Sister attends University Aspirational disposition Timely support Dissonance of learning experience – structure vs. self-directed learning ‘Sarah’ BTEC entrant to University Progressed from FE College via Grammar School Institutional resistance to aspiration Working class background No previous family history of HE Tenacious disposition Importance of critical moments Dissonance of learning experience – maths support

20 Key Concept: Learner Biographies ‘Normal’ biography University a ‘normal’ aspiration Family access to necessary supports and knowledge ‘Effortless’ progression Institutional ‘socialisation’ for HE ‘Risky’ biography University a break from family trajectory Few family resources to support progression Determination necessary to overcome obstacles ‘Luck’ very important No institutional ‘socialisation’

21 Key Features of Transitions Serendipity of support can compensate for lack of family or institutional ‘socialisation’ Institutional support in FE or HE can add to existing dispositions reducing risk Strong personal or family dispositions critical to making a difference

22 So what…? We have found that staff and students in HE bear the brunt of what Lunt (2008:746) calls “the trade off between excellence and equity” But as the globalisation of higher education plays out in tension between global, national and regional roles for universities, is there a space for challenging the Mohrmam’s Emerging Global Model (aka elitism) of the top strata of universities? Can a focus on the third mission and the region informed by Boyer’s (1990) concept of the scholarship of engagement moderate the struggle between excellence and equity?. How should FE work in enabling vocational transitions?

23 References Bourdieu, P., (1987) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press Boyer, E., L., (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate Princeton NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Clark, B., R., (1960) The “Cooling-out” Function in Higher Education, The American Journal of Sociology, 65 (6), Connor, H., & Little, B., (2007) When will diversity of higher education mean diversity of entry routes for young people?, Journal of Access Policy and Practice, 4 (2), Crozier, G., Reay, D., Clayton, J., Colliander, L. & Grinstead, J. (2008) Different strokes for different folks: diverse students in diverse institutions - experiences of higher education Research Papers in Education, 23(2), pp Davey, G., & Fuller, A., (2010) Hybrid Qualifications - Increasing the Value of Vocational Education and Training in the Context of Lifelong Learning - Country Report, England, Southampton School of Education: University of Southampton DIUS, Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (2008) Higher Education at Work High Skills, High Value, London, The Stationery Office Foster, T., (2009) Alternative Routes into and Pathways through Higher Education, London, Department for Business Innovation and Skills Harris, R., Sumner, R., & Rainey, L., (2005) Student Traffic: Two way movement between vocational education and training and higher education, Australia: NCVER HEFCE (2004) ‘Lifelong Learning Networks’ (Joint letter from HEFCE and the Learning & Skills Council) HEFCE circular letter 12/2004, dated 3 June 2004 Hoeckel, K., & Schwartz, R., (2011) Learning for Jobs OECD Review of Vocational Education and Training in Germany OECD Hoelscher, M., Hayward, G., Ertl, H. & Dunbar-Goddet, H. (2008) The transition from vocational education and training to higher education: a successful pathway?, Research Papers in Education, 23(2), pp

24 References Leitch, (2006) Prosperity for all in the global economy – world class skills, Final Report, London, The Stationery Office Lunt, I.,(2008): Beyond tuition fees? The legacy of Blair’’s government to higher education, Oxford Review of Education, 34:6, Moodie, G., & Wheelahan, L., (2009) The Significance of Australian Vocational Education Institutions in Opening Access to Higher Education Higher Education Quarterly Special Issue: The College Contribution to English Higher Education: International and Contextual Commentaries, Volume 63 ( 4), 356–370 Mohrman, K., Ma, W., & Baker, D., (2008) The research university in transition: the emerging global model, Higher Education Policy 21 (1): Purcell, K., Elias, P. and Atfield, G. (2009). Analysing the relationship between higher education participation and educational and career development patterns and outcomes, A new classification of higher education institutions, Coventry: IER University of Warwick. Reay, D., Davies, J., David, M. & Ball, S.J. (2001) Choices of Degree or Degrees of Choice? Class, 'Race' and the Higher Education Choice Process, Sociology, 35(4), pp Trow, M., (1999) From Mass Higher Education to Universal Access: The American Advantage, Minerva, 37, Tomlinson, S.,(2005) Education in a post welfare society, Maidenhead, Open University Press/McGraw Hill Webb, S., Davies, P., Williams, J., Green, P., & Thompson, A., (1994) Access and Alternative entrants to higher education: routes, tacks, triggers and choices, Journal of Access Studies, 9(2)


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