Widening participation research and practice in the United Kingdom on the twentieth anniversary of the Dearing report, reflections on a changing landscape
AbstractThis paper is a reflective and critical review of research relating to widening participation (WP) in higher education (HE). The motivation for undertaking this was the twentieth anniversary of the Dearing Report Higher Education in the Learning Society (1997); a document that ignited a wide range of WP activity and policy. Dearing’s report was published in the United Kingdom and represents one of the most significant reviews of higher education in this country since the Robbins’ Report of 1963. His vision for HE included a “compact” between local and regional communities and their universities, and emphasised WP and greater student diversity. I draw on my own research in WP since Dearing, compare with other research projects, and compare with my experiences as a practitioner and researcher in various contexts, including most recently in a post-1992 university known for being a WP institution. This paper identifies several core themes that emerged from WP activities over the last 20 years and leads to the development of an added dimension in WP research. It calls for more consideration of the complex and heterogeneous identities of WP students today. It then returns to some of Dearing’s original themes and considers how WP is situated in the current neoliberal climate affecting HE; it presents a set of ideas for discussion with respect to the future of WP research.
CitationThompson, D. (2017) 'Widening participation research and practice in the United Kingdom on the twentieth anniversary of the Dearing report, reflections on a changing landscape', Educational Review, 71 (2) pp. 1-16
PublisherTaylor & Francis
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