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What is widening participation? WP Workshop, London May 2012 Tempus: Equal Access for All Day One, Prof Penny Jane Burke.

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Presentation on theme: "What is widening participation? WP Workshop, London May 2012 Tempus: Equal Access for All Day One, Prof Penny Jane Burke."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is widening participation? WP Workshop, London May 2012 Tempus: Equal Access for All Day One, Prof Penny Jane Burke

2 Contested concept Widening access & participation -- concerned with redressing the under-representation of certain social groups in higher education; concept of widening participation is highly contested there is no one agreed definition In the English context, during the period of New Labour government ( ), widening participation, often shorthanded as ‘WP’, gained discursive momentum and hegemony.

3 WP and Policy particular policy interventions: e.g. the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, 2005), which has attempted to provide a concrete definition of WP HEFCE offers guidelines to institutions, organizations and individuals who are involved in enacting WP policy; – The principle underpinning this guidance is that resources should be targeted at learners with the potential to benefit from higher education who come from under-represented communities. Overwhelmingly these learners are from lower socio-economic groups (groups 4–8 in the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification, NS-SEC), and those from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in areas of relative deprivation where participation in HE is low. (HEFCE 2007, 8)

4 WP, social justice & economic competitiveness Widening access and improving participation in higher education are a crucial part of our mission. Our aim is to promote and provide the opportunity of successful participation in higher education to everyone who can benefit from it. This is vital for social justice and economic competitiveness.

5 HEFCE: What do we mean by ‘widening participation’? We see widening participation as a broad expression that covers many aspects of participation in HE, including fair access and social mobility. We continue to emphasise - but with renewed focus – that addressing widening participation relates to the whole 'life-cycle' of a student in HE. This covers pre-entry, through admission, study support and successful completion at undergraduate level, to progress on to further study or employment. Our funds for widening participation take the form of annual ‘non-mainstream’ allocations that help universities and colleges develop a strategic approach that covers this life-cycle.

6 Equality and diversity Our responsibility in relation to equality and diversity will also continue to guide and influence the work we undertake. Funding will remain in place to support: institutions in their provision for students with disabilities work continuing to understand better the variation in attainment rates for different ethnic groups.

7 Neoliberal frameworks Much of the literature on WP argues that it has been strongly framed by neoliberal perspectives This emphasizes the relationship between HE and the economy: – Governments across the world are making concerted efforts to boost participation rates in higher education. Government policies have portrayed intellectual capital in the era of knowledge capitalism as one of the most important determiners of economic success (Naidoo, 2003: 250).

8 Differentiated & hierarchical WP – in context of increasingly highly differentiated and hierarchical HE system. – Jean Barr asserts that ‘one of the most pernicious effects of the (New Labour) government’s widening participation strategy could be to solidify existing hierarchies (of institutions and knowledge) within higher education’ (Barr, 2008: 36).

9 Difference & Identities Research-intensive HEIs - recruit students largely from affluent socio-economic backgrounds new ‘post-1992’ HEIs associated most strongly with recruiting students from traditionally under-represented and ‘diverse’ backgrounds institutional identities of universities within this differentiated system are strongly tied up with student identities this profoundly shapes individual aspirations and choices in relation to HE participation (Reay et al., 2005; Reay at al., 2001) and student experience (Crozier and Reay, 2008). Such hierarchies re/produced through neoliberal frameworks: deploy market mechanisms such as league tables to ‘exert pressure on universities to comply with consumer demand’ (Naidoo 2003: 250).

10 Approaches to WP Jones and Thomas (2005) outline three contrasting approaches to access & WP: 1. academic: emphasizes attitudinal factors such as ‘low aspirations’ - activities to raise aspirations are prioritized and these are located on the peripheries of universities with ‘little or no impact on institutional structure and culture’ (Jones and Thomas 2005: 617). 2. utilitarian: focuses on attitudinal factors as well as lack of academic qualifications - the ‘double deficit model’ -emphases the relationship between higher education and the economy 3. transformative: focuses on the needs of under-represented groups in higher education (Jones and Thomas 2005: 627).

11 WP & Social Justice concern with widening participation in HE to under-represented groups -- ultimately a project of social justice by virtue of its underpinning aim requires detailed theoretical attention to social justice -- to develop the strategies, policies & practices -- to disrupt long-standing inequalities in HE

12 Two-dimensional concept of Social Justice Nancy Fraser-- emphasizes attention to difference Fraser argues for a ‘two-dimensional’ conception of social justice – addresses claims for redistribution & recognition. Claims for redistribution: concerned with a more just distribution of resources and wealth Fraser sees recognition in terms of the ‘status model of recognition’ (Fraser, 2003: 29).

13 Institutionalized patterns On the status model, misrecognition is neither a psychical deformation nor an impediment to ethical self-realization. Rather it constitutes an institutionalized relation of subordination and a violation of justice. To be misrecognized, accordingly, is not to suffer distorted identity or impaired subjectivity as a result of being depreciated by others. It is rather to be constituted by institutionalized patterns of cultural value in ways that prevent one from participating as a peer in social life (Fraser, 2003).

14 Reconceptualising participation Fraser’s concept of social justice helps to deepen the focus from participation as about gaining entry to higher education to parity of participation.

15 Changing institutional cultures When misrecognition is identified with internal distortions in the structure of the self-conscious of the oppressed, it is but a short step to blaming the victim (…) Misrecognition is a matter of externally manifest and publicly verifiable impediments to some people’s standing as full members of society. To redress it, again, means to overcome subordination. This in turn means changing institutions and social practices (Fraser, 2003: 31, my emphasis).

16 Focus on institutional transformation Fraser’s concept of social justice: – shifts attention away from individualised blame and deficit discourses, which characterise WP policy discourses – places needed attention on transforming those educational cultures, practices and structures which are implicated in reproducing exclusions and inequalities.

17 Final thoughts WP is a contested concept In policy economic-oriented concerns have been fore grounded However, it is about redressing inequalities in access to and participation in HE In this way WP is about social justice issues in higher education (and education more broadly)


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