Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

pp 1-7

Date: Latest Version

Access to and Widening Participation in Higher Education

  • Penny Jane BurkeAffiliated withCentre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, The University of Newcastle Email author 

Widening Access and participation (WP) has emerged as a major policy concern in a number of national contexts. It is connected to longer histories over struggles for the right to higher education, to concerns for greater fairness in society, and to ensuring that higher education is more equitable and inclusive. It is also shaped by the growing diversification of student constituencies that have resulted from higher education expansion over the later decades of the twentieth century. In the English context, during the period of the New Labour Government (1997–2010), widening participation, often shorthanded as “WP,” gained discursive hegemony, and this discourse has gained momentum internationally. However, the concept of “widening participation” is highly contested within and across different national contexts, and there is no one agreed definition.

The different meanings circulating from policies of WP are often implicit, while assumptions are often made about a common or universal und ...

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