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Why Do We Need Widening Participation in the UK Context?’

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Presentation on theme: "Why Do We Need Widening Participation in the UK Context?’"— Presentation transcript:

1 Why Do We Need Widening Participation in the UK Context?’

2 In the late 1980s and 1990s there was considerable increase in post 16 education in the UK, Western Europe and the so called developed world generally. This contrasted sharply with the previous situation. In the 1970s less than 20% of 16 year olds were going on to further education and only around 6% were going to Higher education By 2000 these numbers had risen to more than 70% of post 16 year olds going on to some form of further education. Just under 40% of 18 year olds now go to university

3 Also a focus on life long learning and widening university participation for mature students 25 +. Increase in the number of women and significant increase in the number of people from minority ethnic groups attending university The proportion of ethnic minorities in higher education almost doubled from 8.3% in 1995-96 to 16.0% in 2007-08

4 Reasons for development of widening participation in the UK World wide developments – USA and Japan leading the way; then Australia, Ireland and other European countries. Demise of industrial base and the need for an alternative – the knowledge economy as it has come to be known The intrinsic value of developing an educated society A growing recognition of egalitarian principles and needs Concern about civil unrest in the face of unemployment and economic austerity of the 1980s and early 1990s.

5 In 1997 New Labour on coming into office prioritised education and made a strong commitment to widening participation and ‘lifelong learning’. They committed to achieving 50% of18 year olds’ attendance at university. They didn’t achieve this.

6 Helena Kennedy in her Learning Works: WP in FE Report 1997, argued that Widening Participation wasn’t just about increasing numbers in HE and FE but was more concerned with reaching areas of Britain that were isolated and disadvantaged. Encouraging people to develop their learning throughout life was a way to generate wealth and new jobs and to engage more people in society. It was also a way to increase social mobility. There is a view that social mobility has not materialised from these initiatives/policies.

7 WP potentially enhances citizenship and develops a sense of the need for active involvement. Tensions with the individualisation of society and the education system itself. Under New Labour there was a very strong push for social justice and a re-distribution of public resources to a wider range of people. Stronger links between Further and Higher Education were encouraged and emphasised, leading to more FE Colleges providing foundation degrees and full degree level courses which appealed to people in their locality.

8 In economically disadvantaged areas in particular the important impact of the universities and FE Colleges has been most notable in contributing to the local financial and knowledge economy. Examples of the North of England and former industrial areas where universities have contributed significantly to the local economy.

9 Opposition to/arguments against Widening Participation Critics argue that mass Higher Education has: changed the nature of university education; has lowered standards led to grade and qualifications inflation and can lead/has led to too many graduates chasing too few jobs can raise the qualification stakes so that more students might be driven to undertake postgraduate qualifications some have argued that degrees have replaced the old apprenticeships and that vocational qualifications have no place in the university.

10 Issues of high drop out and waste of public resources. Lack of suitable support once at university. WP can become very expensive for the State. Hence as we see in the UK first the imposition of tuition fees and the end of universal subsistence grants and more recently the tripling of fees and introduction of loans.

11 References Burke, P.J. (2002) Accessing Education: effectively widening participation. Stoke on Trent:Trentham Books Connor, H. et al (2004) Why the Difference? A closer look ar HE minority ethnic students and graduates. Nottingham DfES and IES David,M. (ed) Bathmaker,A. Crozier,G. et al (contributors) (2009) Widening Participation Through Improving Learning. London and New York: Routledge DfES (2003) Widening Participation in HE. London:DfES Publications Kennedy, H. (1997) Learning Works: Widening Participation in FE. Coventry: FEFC Thomas,L. (2003) Widening Participation in Post Compulsory Education. London, NY: Continuum


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