Raising Aspirations and Widening Participation

Action on Access (2003) Student Success in Higher Education, Bradford: Action on Access This report covers three research-based activities undertaken by Action on Access (from December 2001 to December 2002). The first was an analysis of two types of strategy documents – those addressing widening participation, and those focusing on the development of learning and teaching. The second and third activities take as their focus the context of institutional practice. In both cases, institutional case studies were developed to explore how universities were responding greater levels of student diversity. Examples of good practice are provided along with fifteen ‘vignettes’ chosen to illustrate the variety of approaches adopted by HEIs. Available here

Ahmed, S (2008) Access for all – A Guide to Disability Good Practice for University Physics Departments, London: Institute of Physics The aim of this guide is to provide practical advice and guidance to university physics departments, by explaining current disability legislation, highlighting good practice and providing case studies. Disabled people can be particularly disadvantaged in the job market, so it is important for disabled students to be given opportunities and support early on, so that they can obtain a degree-level qualification and compete in an increasingly competitive environment. This report contains advice that is transferable to other disciplines. Available here

Andres, L. and Carpenter, S. (1997) Today’s Higher Education Students: Issues of Admission, Retention, Transfer, and Attrition in Relation to Changing Student Demographics,  Canada: The British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer The paper begins with an overview of retention models. Early models, dealing with the retention and attrition of traditional students, provide some understanding that can be broadly transferred to non-traditional students, but alone they do not adequately explain all changes resulting from demographic shifts in the student population. After introducing emergent theories studying the attrition of non-traditional students, the authors attempt to make the theories concrete in a discussion of non-traditional student populations, including transfer students, older adult learners, commuters, part-time students, graduate students, women, students with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. It concludes with a summary discussion of the implications for change. Available here

Atherton, G. and  Mazhari, T. (2019) Preparing for  hyper-diversity: London’s student population in 2030 – An AccessHE Report, London: London Higher This report looks at trajectories of the younger student body (aged 18-24) entering HE from London over the next decade. The impact of varying trajectories of entry to HE, by ethnicity and socioeconomic position, on the composition of students by 2030 is explored. Available here

Boliver,V., Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2019) Using contextualised admissions to widen access to higher education: a guide to the evidence base, Durhham:
Durham University 

This research briefing summarises the findings and implications of an ESRC-funded research project on the use of contextualised admissions to widen access to higher education. The briefing offers evidence-based recommendations to assist higher education providers in developing more effective contextualised admissions policies as a means of promoting wider and fairer access. Higher education providers are welcome to contact the authors of this briefing for further advice on developing their contextualised admissions policies. Available here

Chen, X. (2005)  First Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Look at Their College Transcripts (NCES 2005–171), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office This report looks at the disadvantages and barriers facing first generation students entering higher education. Available here

CooperGibson Research (2018) Good practice in Level 4 and 5 qualifications Research report, London:Department of Education This literature review explored good practice in the development and delivery of level 4 and 5 qualifications. It particularly focused on how or why courses or qualifications have gained popularity and achieved good outcomes at this level. The results of the literature review were then used to draw lessons on aspects of good practice for the design and delivery of level 4 and 5 qualifications. Available here

Curtis, A., Power, S., Whitty, G., Exley, S. and Sasia, A. ( 2008) Primed for Success? The characteristics and practices of state schools with good track records of entry into prestigious UK universities A report on research carried out for the Sutton Trust, London:Institute of Education The research aims to explore the characteristics and practices of non-academically selective state schools which have a successful track record in sending students to the more prestigious universities. The research set out to answer the following questions:
•    What are the characteristics of state-maintained comprehensive schools that are successful in sending students to the most prestigious universities?
•    What institutional processes are put in place to support students in their progression?
•    What lessons can be learnt from these schools which will inform policy and practice elsewhere? Available here

Department of Education (2004) Fair admissions to higher education: recommendations for good practice- Schwartz Review, London: DoE The review looked at the admissions system in the UK. The Steering Group presents in this report a set of five principles which it believes are the basis of fair admissions. Available here

Department for Education (2017)   Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential: A plan for improving social mobility through education, London: DoE This report lays out the Government’s plan for putting social mobility at the heart of education policy. It puts forward plans for how standards can be raised for all, no community is left behind and how efforts and resources will be targeted at people and places that need it most. Available here

Duke, C. and Layer, G. (2005) Widening Participation: Which way forward for English higher education, Leicester: NIACE This book provides an overview of widening participation in England. The first few chapters offer experiences and insights from managers working in universities and colleges. Later chapters focus on models and markets for higher education. The concluding chapter offers an examination of policies and practices with the HE sector.

Engle, J. and Tinto, V. (2008) Moving Beyond Access College Succes s For Low- Income,First-Generation Students, Washington: Pell Institute
This report examines the current status of low-income, first-generation college students in higher education. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education datasets, it describes the ways in which this population participates in higher education, including persistence and degree attainment rates, and compare their participation to other students, including those who are neither low-income nor first-generation. It discusses the barriers that low-income, first-generation students face to achieving success in college, as well as the strategies that colleges and universities can pursue to address these barriers and improve students’ chances of earning degrees. It offers recommendations for institutional and government actions that could go a long way towards closing the access and success gaps that exist today for this doubly disadvantaged population. Available here

Equality Challenge Unit (2017) Findings: Sector-leading and innovative practice in advancing equality and diversity Report to HEFCE, London: Equality Challenge Unit The evidence received from 49 higher education institutions (HEIs) across England highlights the sector’s commitment to equality and diversity. Many of the examples received are exemplary and highlight that equality work in the higher education sector often has a much broader reach than a single institution. Examples have been received of partnerships between institutions, of institutions working with other agencies and of institutions working to embed their equality initiatives into the curriculum with the aim of raising awareness of equality issues and how to respond to them within future generations of the workforce. Available here

Fiske, E.B (2012) World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education, Paris:  United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
This extensive report looks at global gender equality in education and policy issues. Available here

Fuller, M., Georgeson, J., Healey, M., Hurst, A., Kelly, K., Riddell, S., Roberts, H. And Weedon, E. (2009) Improving Disabled Students’ Learning:Experiences and Outcomes, London: Routledge
How do disabled students feel about their time at university? What practices and policies work and what challenges do they encounter? How do they view staff and those providing learning support?  This book sets out to show how disabled students experience university life today. The current generation of students is the first to move through university after the enactment of the Disability Discrimination Act, which placed responsibility on universities to create an inclusive environment for disabled students. The research on which the book is based focuses on a selected group of students with a variety of impairments, as they progress through their degree courses. On the way they encounter different styles of teaching and approaches to learning and assessment. The diversity of their views is reflected in the issues they raise: negotiating identities, dealing with transitions, encountering divergent and sometimes confusing teaching and assessment.

Gartland, C. (2015) Student Ambassadors and STEM Outreach: A study of practices in the USA, London: Institute of Education
This report explores different programmes using student ambassadors in the USA where there has been considerable government funding for this activity, in order to identify successful approaches relevant to the UK. The report:
1. Develops an understanding of the organisation of university outreach work and ambassador schemes in STEM subjects in the USA;
2. Identifies examples of practice that best support groups currently under-represented in STEM subjects and careers;
3. Explores different pedagogical approaches used in outreach activity and their contribution to developing pupils’ STEM identities, particularly those of girls, BAME and pupils from non-traditional backgrounds and disadvantaged communities;
4. Shares findings with HEIs, professional bodies and charities involved in STEM outreach and Widening Participation more generally in the UK;
5. Shares the outcome of an ambassador outreach programme developed locally to support and promote STEM identities among pupils in Suffolk, particularly targeting areas of multiple deprivation where achievement in these subject areas at GCSE is currently low. Available here.

Gorard, S., Smith, E., May, H., Thomas, L., Adnett, N. and Slack, K. (2006) Review of Widening Participation Research: addressing the barriers to participation in higher education, Bristol: HEFCE This review is wide-ranging and serves as a contribution to the wider debate surrounding entry to, and, progression through higher education. It is a useful reference document. Available here

Greenbaum, J.  (2012) A Diversity Initiative in Global Education for First-Generation Students, SIT Graduate Institute A capstone initiative for first generation students. Available here

Hecht, K., McArthur, D., Savage, M. and Friedman, S. (2020) Elites in the UK: Pulling away? Social mobility, geographic mobility and elite occupations,  London:The Sutton Trust This report presents the most systematic study of whether elites in the UK are pulling away, not just economically but also socially , in terms of their attitudes and cultural distinctiveness, and geographically , in terms of where they live. It uses both existing evidence and original analysis of the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study.  Available here.

Hoyles, C., Reiss, M. and Tough, S. (2011) Supporting STEM in schools and colleges in England: The role of research- A report for Universities UK, London:  Universities UK
STEM is the acronym used in England for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM subjects are a central plank in developing the UK’s skills base. Specialist knowledge in these subjects not only underpins many high-tech sectors – such as IT and engineering – but is also important for creativity and developing new ideas. This report demonstrates the role of social science research, and specifically education research, which sets out to sustain and develop the STEM skills base in England. It does this through presenting research that is taking place within education departments in English higher education institutions. The report presents case studies of research which is aimed, ultimately, at improving attainment and participation in STEM subjects, although there are various other routes through which higher education institutions can, and do, affect this. Available here

Jackson, S., Ajayi, S. and Quigley, M. (2005) Going to University from Care, London: Institute of Education
This is the final report of a five-year action research project commissioned by the Frank Buttle Trust to explore the experiences of the small minority of care leavers who continue into higher education. The principal aim of the project was to use this evidence to advise government, local authorities, universities and colleges in order to: increase the numbers of young people in care going to university; enable them to make the most of their time there and to complete their courses successfully; help local authorities to fulfil their obligations as corporate parents and to raise awareness of the particular needs of this group of students. Available here

Jones, S. (2012) The Personal Statement: A fair way to assess university applicants?  – A summary of research 1 produced for the Sutton Trust, London: Sutton Trust
The UCAS personal statement is an important non-academic indicator that many UK universities use as an integral part of their admissions processes. Up to half a million personal statements are written every year.2  This report is the first to consider how they are shaped by applicants’ educational background. 309 personal statements were analysed, all of which were submitted to the same department of the same Russell Group university by students with the same A-level results. Available here

Kelly, S (2017) Reforming BTECs: Applied General qualifications as a route to higher education (HEPI report 94), London: Higher Education Policy Institute
In a new HEPI paper, Reforming BTECs: Applied General qualifications as a route to higher education (HEPI report 94), Dr Scott Kelly considers the rise in the number of university students holding BTECs. Students arriving at university with BTECs account for much of the growth in students from the lowest participation neighbourhoods and other under-represented groups over the past decade. But those with BTECs face a ‘glass ceiling’. Although BTEC students can fall behind other students, it is argued that any reform to BTECs must recognise that, if this ‘middle option’ were lost, then much of the progress made to widening participation to higher education in recent years could be lost too. Available here

Kim, Y. M. (2011) Minorities in Higher Education. The 24th Status Report, Washington DC: American Council on Education This report highlights the gaps of different ethnic groups in tertiary education in the USA. Available here

McCrindle, M. and Fell, A. (2021) Understanding Generation Alpha, NSW: McCrindle This paper provide advice on how to understand the traits of Generation Alpha, the current generation of children starting to be born in 2010. It provides a lens through which to look at the next decade and beyond. Available here

Mitchell, E. and Ramsey, C. (2019) Upper Sixths and Higher Education 2019 Survey, London: UCL
Upper Sixths and Higher Education is the latest contribution by the HMC/GSA Universities Committee to solving the university transition quandary: how to close the gap between student expectations and experience. Available here

National Audit Office (2009) Supporting people with autism through adulthood, Norwich:TSO The report looks at key areas where the effectiveness of existing services to support people with autism can be improved through: better strategy and planning, based on good information and raising levels of knowledge and awareness of the nature of autism and the potential needs of autistic people. Addressing these two issues could improve outcomes for this group by making better use of existing resources. Available here

Olsen, A. (2011) The Gender Agenda: Gender Differences in Australian Higher Education, Sydney: Strategy Policy and Research in Education Pty Ltd This paper looks at the gender differences in Australian Higher Education. Available here

Pennacchia, J., Jones, E., and Aldridge, F. (2018) Barriers to learning for disadvantaged groups Report of qualitative findings, Learning and Work Institute, London: Department of Education
This report presents the findings from the interviews, including illustrative case studies of individual’s experiences, and sets out  considerations for policy aimed at engaging more and different adults in learning. Available here

Phoenix, D. (2018) Filling in the biggest skills gap: Increasing learning at Levels 4 and 5, Oxford:HEPI This paper proposes that the origin of our Levels 4 and 5 skills shortage in England is in the shortfall of learners progressing from lower levels. Available here

Quality Assurance Agency (2018) UK Quality Code for Higher Education Advice and Guidance Admissions, Recruitment and Widening Access, Gloucester: QAA Advice and guidance on best practice for admissions, recruitment and widening access. Available here

Race for Opportunity (2011) Race into higher education: Today’s diverse generation into tomorrow’s workforce, London: Business in the Community This report is a comprehensive review of ethnic minorities in higher education today. The report is based on research carried out by Race for Opportunity using data from the 1995- 96 and 2007-8 ‘HESA Student Record’ published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). The report also makes use of Labour Force Survey data from the corresponding years. The aim is to provide a snapshot of where and what Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic  Groups (BAMEs) are studying at UK universities and whether this has changed since 1995-96. The report also looks at the success of ethnic minorities in finding employment after completing their education. Available here

Robinson, D. and Salvestrini, V. (2018) The impact of interventions for widening participation in higher education- A review of the evidence, London:Education Policy Institute
The goal of this review is to provide evidence on the interventions that have been shown to be most effective in improving participation for disadvantaged students, and to identify gaps in the current research base. Available here

Shaw, J., Brain, K., Bridger, K., Foreman, J. and Reid, I. (2007) Embedding widening participation and promoting student diversity, York: Higher Education Academy. This report looks at the drivers, benefits and costs of embedding widening participation (WP) and student diversity. The study encompassed both an exploration and analysis of the literature and new research in order to provide examples of how WP and diversity policy and practice was constructed, understood and implemented by different internal HEI stakeholders. Available here

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (2013) Higher Education: the Fair Access Challenge,London:smcp commission
In this short report, SMCP summarises how universities have responded to the recommendations in University Challenge. SMCP welcomes the fact that
the higher education sector is clearly taking social mobility issues seriously. It is known that what happens in schools ultimately holds the key to who can participate in higher education. Government obviously has a key role but much more also needs to be done by universities to open their doors to a wider pool of talent and potential. There is widespread acknowledgement that the blame game – where universities blame schools, schools blame parents and everyone blames the Government – must stop. More importantly there is a lot of university action underway which will help make a difference. It is clear that there is an increasing determination on the part of our universities to do their bit in creating a Britain that is socially mobile. The challenge is to ensure that these good intentions translate into better outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This report provides new evidence about the scale of the fair access challenge being faced. This evidence shows that some of the UK’s leading universities in particular have a long way to go: they have become more, not less, socially unrepresentative over time. The proportion of students at these institutions from state schools and from disadvantaged backgrounds. Available here

Sutton Trust (2021) Fairness First: Social Mobility, Covid and Education Recovery May 2021 Policy Brief, London: Sutton Trust This policy brief suggests ways in which to improve social mobility after Covid19. Available here

Tym, C., McMillion. R, Barone. S. and Webster, J. (2004) First-Generation College Students: A Literature Review, Research and Analytical Services
This paper provides an outline of the problems first generation students can encounter. Available here

Thompson, J. and Bekhradnia , B. (2012) The impact on demand of the Government’s reforms of higher education, London: Higher Education Policy Institute
This report follows that produced by HEPI in 2011 that analysed the higher education White Paper (Thompson et al, 2011). It forms one of a series which will look at how higher education changed following the introduction of the reforms in 2012. These assessments are necessarily piecemeal if they are to be timely. It will be many years before some outcomes are seen, while others will be clearer far sooner. Available here

Watson, D. (2006) How to think about widening participation in UK higher education (Discussion paper for HEFCE) Professor David Watson expresses some of his ideas regarding the concepts, language and issues surrounding widening participation in this paper. Professor Watson challenges the readers to re-examine the way in which we think about and address widening participation in higher education by posing a number of questions regarding the very nature of the WP ‘problem’. Available here