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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2007): Education - UK - higher

Do barriers get in the way? A review of the determinants of post-16 participation

S. Gorard and E. Smith

Research in Post-Compulsory Education, vol.12, 2007, p. 141-158

This article reviews some of the evidence on the barriers to participation in higher education in England. It is clear that inequalities between socioeconomic groups appear early in life, and heavily influence attainment at school, the range of options available and selected at age 14 and 16, qualifications achieved at age 18, and the decision to participate in higher education or not. The role of individual barriers to participation, such as costs, transport issues, and lack of course flexibility, appears to be marginal. It follows that the impact of attempts by institutions to widen participation will also be marginal.

Introducing widening participation policies in higher education: the influence of institutional culture

P. Greenbank

Research in Post-Compulsory Education, vol. 12, 2007, p. 209-224

The current Labour government in the UK aims to increase participation by students from lower socioeconomic groups in higher education. This paper examines the role of culture in the development of higher education institution policy on widening participation. It begins by defining policy and culture and by discussing the role of culture in the policy migration process. It then uses findings from documentary research and interviews with senior and middle managers to examine the relationship between institutional widening participation policy and HEI culture. Results suggest that widening participation policy formulated at senior management level is likely to be reinterpreted, revised, undermined and even ignored as it is applied at lower levels in the institution's hierarchy. There is too much emphasis on institutional level policy-making and a top-down approach.

The rhetoric and reality of 'quality' in higher education

M. J. Cartwright

Quality Assurance in Education, vol. 15, 2007, p.287-301

The paper aims to describe research undertaken in two post-1992 universities into staff perceptions of, and reactions to, the rhetoric of the national quality agenda in the UK as expressed by bodies such as the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the discourse about quality implicit in that agenda. The research involved a qualitative investigation of the personal experiences of six academics, comprising in-depth interviews around three themes undertaken during 2005 and 2006. The paper concludes that from the point of view of these six academics there is a considerable mismatch between the rhetoric of the official paragons of quality represented by the QAA and the experience of academic staff embroiled in the quality systems that the two universities had developed as a consequence of the requirements of government and government agencies.

Widening participation in higher education for refugees and asylum seekers

M. Watts

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 25, Summer 2007, p.44-48

This article presents the findings of an East of England Development Agency (EEDA) funded project examining the opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers with good skills and high qualifications, or the aspiration to achieve them, to participate in higher education (HE) in the East of England. The project was initiated as a response to the early drafts of The Regional Refugee Employment, Skills and Lifelong Learning Strategy, 2005-2015 (Refugee Council on behalf of EEDA). The project was a response to wider concerns that refugees and asylum seekers are economically and socially impoverished by constraints that prevent them utilising these assets and an awareness that education has a significant role in enabling refugees and asylum seekers to develop their employability. Universities and other HE institutions are ideally placed to assist those with higher level qualifications and experience, or the aspiration to achieve them, to realise their full potential, contribute to the economy and enhance their personal well-being. This article is intended as a guide to practitioners seeking to engage refugees and asylum seekers in higher education.

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