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Pauline Whelan Centre for Social and Educational Research across the Life Course Leeds Metropolitan University Stratification, Marketisation.

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Presentation on theme: "Pauline Whelan Centre for Social and Educational Research across the Life Course Leeds Metropolitan University Stratification, Marketisation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pauline Whelan Centre for Social and Educational Research across the Life Course Leeds Metropolitan University Stratification, Marketisation and Social Inequalities: Widening Participation in Higher Education in England

2 Overview Institutional Stratification and Widening Participation  Intensification of marketisation of English HE -> Intensification of processes of institutional stratification (Brown, 2012)  What are the implications for WP?  How does institutional stratification relate to WP? Institutional mediation of national WP policy  How do institutions variously adopt and reject elements of national policy?  How do approaches/interpretations/discourses of WP vary across the sector? Two Key Areas of Analysis  WP ‘Performances’  Institutional discourses across official documentation (WPSAs: 20 institutions: 2009)

3 Marketisation and Stratification Intensification of marketisation -> increased institutional stratification: “If there is one thing on which nearly everyone who has studied the Government’s reforms agrees, it is that these will produce a more stratified sector, with much greater differences in institutional resourcing and esteem” (Brown, 2012) “the…pursuit of stratified forms of institutional diversity…mitigates against the fostering of (an equitable form of) student diversity (i.e., a system in which all students are equally valued and have access to equal status forms of provision)” (Archer, 2007) The ‘perverse’ enactment of WP (Jary & Thomas, 1999)  Majority of WP students located at ‘less prestigious’ universities  Where/what are WP students gaining access to?

4 WP Context National Policy Within a broad national policy context of competing definitions and conflicting agendas, there is considerable institutional autonomy around approaches to WP Institutions o “Elite institutions are able to maintain their power and prestige precisely because they are largely released from any responsibility to substantially engage in WP” (Archer, 2007) St udents  “Working-class young people and adults possess a commonsense knowledge of the hierarchy of institutions and they ‘know’ that this hierarchy offers them a ‘bum deal’ in that only ‘crap’ universities…are open to them” (Archer, 2007)

5 WP and Institutional ‘Type’ Variation in WP Approach by Institutional ‘Type’  Location, mission, history, market position and institutional self- identity (Shaw et al, 2007)  Tripartite HE system: ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ institutions (Ainley 2003; Archer, 2007)  ‘Selecting’ vs ‘Recruiting’/‘Old’ vs ‘New’/Pre and Post 92 Universities (Graham, 2010)  Russell Group vs All Other HEIs (Boliver, 2012)  Oxbridge focus (e.g. Oxford Admissions: Zimdars, 2010)  Mission Groups (HESA Statistics, Mission Group Publications) Different discourses/models of how WP is approached within HEIs  Academic, utilitarian, transformative approaches (Jones & Thomas, 2005)  Academic, differential provision, transformative models (Shaw et al, 2007)

6 Exploring Variation across HEIs Critical Mixed Methods Approach: combining quantitative analysis of WP ‘performance indicators’ and discourse analysis of institutional documentation WP ‘Performance’ Data of HEIs  Official HESA statistics for all English HEIs for analysed by mission group  Analysis of institutional discourses around WP ‘performances’ (Access Agreements, 2009) WP Institutional Discourses  Widening Participation Strategic Assessments (2009)  Aspects of stratification constructed/perpetuated by WP institutional discourses of admissions

7 WP ‘Performance’ Data Dearing Report (1997, Recommendation 58):  “Funding bodies and representative bodies develop appropriate performance indicators and benchmarks for families of institutions with similar characteristics and aspirations “ Accountability, inform budgeting, information dissemination, incentivise institutions (Pugh et al, 2005) PIs and benchmarks published annually; HEFCE ; HESA 2002-> OFFA established in 2004, ‘safeguards fair access’ via approval of Access agreements, 2 powers to sanction institutions (never used); 4/5ths of HEIs used WP PIs in 2010 to report to OFFA

8 WP Performances and Mission Group The ‘Nuclear Option’ Les Ebdon appointed as Director of OFFA in March 2012 “Professor Ebdon…responded by laying down the gauntlet to highly-selective universities with “patchy” records on access, saying that he would be prepared to use the “nuclear option” of stopping institutions from charging higher fees if they did not measure up.” (Times Higher, 8 February 2012) “We sincerely hope that the new director of OFFA will come to recognise the tough challenges we face in trying to widen access” (Wendy Piatt, Russell Group, 2012) “it is right that they[universities] should continue to consider how well they are doing and this is one of the important roles for the new Director for Fair Access.” (Prof Michael Driscoll, million+, 2012)

9 WP ‘Performances’– HESA View Performance Indicators published annually by HESA for each HEI “Performance Indicators are a range of statistical indicators intended to offer an objective measure of how a higher education institution (HEI) is performing. They are not 'league tables' and do not attempt to compare all HEIs against a ‘gold standard’ or against each other …” (HESA, Guide to PIs, 2011) Widening Participation Performance Indicators of HEI’s  Young (under 21) full-time undergraduate entrants by 3 social-class proxies: state schools, low participation neighbourhoods and NS-SEC 4-7  Performance indicators are also produced for disabled students, mature students and part-time students

10 WP Benchmarks – HESA View Benchmarks, produced annually by HESA, “allow direct comparisons to be made both between institutions, and between an institution and the sector” (HESA, 2012) Two benchmarking aims: 1. “To see how well an HEI is performing compared to the HE sector as a whole.” 2. “To decide whether to compare two institutions” (HESA, 2012) “The benchmarks are not targets.” (HESA, PIs: Adjusted sector benchmarks, 2012) (…but we know that they are generally used as targets: 4/5ths of HEIs used PIs in 2010 to report to OFFA)

11 PI and Benchmark HEI Example Example, 2010/2011, Percentage of young (under 21) full-time undergraduate entrants: HEIState Schools (%) NS-SEC 4-7 (%) Low Participation Neighbourhoods (%) Edge Hill University 98.7 (95.9 / 97.1)41.1 (38.4 / 38.6) 19.8 (14.1 / 18.2) University of Cambridge 59.0 (71.1 / 68.8)10.6 (15.9 / 15.9)3.1 (4.8 / 4.2)

12 Institutional WP ‘Performances’ Analysis of all Performance Indicators for all HEFCE-funded HEIs in England for the period by mission group  PIs - one of the key ways by which institutional widening participation ‘performances’ are assessed and monitored  4/5ths of HEIs used PIs in 2010 to report to OFFA Analysis of the institutional discourses around Widening Participation Performance Indicators Mission Groups  Russell Group: “leading UK universities”  1994 Group: “internationally renowned, research-intensive universities”  University Alliance: “a group of 23 major, business-engaged universities”  million+: “enable people from every walk of life to benefit from access to universities that excel in teaching, research and knowledge transfer”

13 WP PIs and Benchmarks WP PIs and Benchmarks from ; averaged for each mission group  Relative differences between missions groups for WP PIs and benchmarks  Relative differences in average performance levels against average benchmarks by mission group Intersection of mission group and WP ‘performances’ Note: not concerned with intra-mission group differences or absolute measures of ‘performance’  Focus here is on the mission group level not on individual institutions  Proxies for social-class have changed over the years, therefore incomparable

14 PIs See website sec-with-weighted-location-adjusted-average- benchmark Relative differences across mission groups consistent over the last 8 years General mission group trends:  Consistent relative mission group ‘performances’ over time  Russell Group and 1994 Group consistently perform below their benchmarks  Russell Group and 1994 Group have average benchmarks which are considerably lower than other groups  Million+ and University Alliance consistently achieve above their benchmarks

15 PIs, Benchmarks and Status Different benchmarks for ‘similar’ institutions principle legitimises the disparities across institutions and mission groups Different expectations for WP performances across mission groups contributes to social inequalities in HE and exacerbates hierarchical stratification of HE sector Language of justification for missing ‘targets’ indicates how PIs intersect heavily with discourses of status e.g.:  “According to the latest performance indicators (2005/06 data), 75.9% of the University’s young full-time first degree entrants came from state school backgrounds. Uni B’s benchmark for their admission was 78.4%. This figure is higher than the benchmark applied to almost all of the research intensive, highly academically selective institutions with which the University would normally compare itself. Uni B is therefore proving more attractive to state sector students than many of its peer institutions.” (Access Agreement, 2009, Uni B)

16 WP Institutional Discourses How do WP institutional discourses relate to the stratification of the HE sector? Official WP Institutional discourses: Widening Participation Strategic Assessments, Access Agreements (2009)  Dominant Discourses of Targeting/Admissions  How do dominant discourses relate to institutional positioning in a stratified sector?  Evidence of the pressures of marketisation or stratification of the sector?

17 Institutional WP Discourses WPSAs of 20 HEIs:  7 Russell Group, Group, 4 million+, 2 University Alliance, 2 Not Aligned  RG & 1994 Group HEIs occupy top league table positions (All in Top 200 ‘World Universities’) ‘Selecting’, ‘Old’, Pre 92 HEIs  >30% of HEFCE Recurrent Grant for Research (RG & 1994) vs <=5% (Post 92s) 2009 Widening Participation Strategic Assessments  ‘a flexible form of reporting’ (HEFCE, 2009), which could reflect the diversity of approaches to WP practices and policies across institutions

18 Dominant Discourses of WP Recruitment/Admissions 1. Required Individual Ability + Required Individual Potential => Desirable WP Student “We will recruit our students solely on the basis of their ability and potential to succeed within the learning environment that we offer” “We must therefore continue our broad-based admissions policies, selecting on merit alone, but always with a view to the potential for achievement” 2. Required Individual Potential => Desirable WP Student “attract and retain students, from a wide and diverse community, who have the potential to succeed and benefit from the experience” “it remains committed to providing opportunities for those from historically excluded sectors of the population who have the potential to succeed in higher education”

19 Academic Ability in Admissions Discourse Present only at Elite/Selecting/More Prestigious Institutions (Selecting by ability uncontested and inevitable as a means to distribute limited places) Academic ability is assessable (by HEIs) Hierarchized and unevenly distributed among students Individualized Predictive of future performance One exception: Gifted and Talented Discourse present across all 20 WPSAs (78% of HEIs listed Gifted & Talented students as a target category, the third most frequently invoked category; Action on Access, 2009)

20 Ability Discourse at ‘Leading Institutions’ Exclusively appealing to the highly ‘able’ and ‘talented’:  “helping to ensure that [Russell Group University] is accessible and attractive to all talented students, irrespective of background”  “attract and retain academically gifted and highly motivated students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a diverse and international University community” Ability Discourse intersects with Discourses of Institutional Status  “to attract the very best learners from around the UK and the rest of the world and offer them a world-class education.” (Russell Group University)  ”To continue to attract and develop the most able students and staff worldwide” (Russell Group University)

21 Dominant Discourses and Institutional Positioning Academic ability bound to widening participation discourse across ‘elite’ institutions (Russell Group, 1994 Group) Market pressures to be perceived as a ‘high quality’ institution enacted in discourses of heightened ability attributes - ‘most able’, ‘brightest and best’ students - which are seen as necessary characteristics of leading institutions  “Aims to attract and recruit those students with the highest academic ability” Absence (and in some cases explicit rejection) of ‘ability’ discourses at Post 92 universities: o “For this university, widening participation was not just a process of ‘talent spotting’ ” (Post 92, WPSA, 2009)

22 Conclusion WP is variously discursively enacted across the sector, permitted by competing national policy agendas, conflicting philosophies and a considerable degree of institutional autonomy around how WP is approached/enacted. Existing mechanisms and measures of WP ‘performances’ legitimise disparities, intersect with discourses of institutional status, and exacerbate sector stratification ‘Ability’ discourse of WP bound to accounts of institutional image/status/prestige and linked to the pressures of the market The current intensification of the marketisation of English HE increases the importance of understanding the relationship between institutional stratification and WP Is there still hope for WP in an increasingly marketised and stratified sector?


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