Higher Education

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 287–302 | Cite as

Higher education and the achievement (and/or prevention) of equity and social justice

  • John Brennan
  • Rajani Naidoo


The article examines the theoretical and empirical literature on higher education’s role in relation to social equity and related notions of citizenship, social justice, social cohesion and meritocracy. It considers both the education and the research functions of higher education and how these impact upon different sections of society, on who benefits and who loses from them. Questions for future research on the wider impact of higher education are posed as well as some research questions on the narrower issue of widening participation.


Meritocracy Widening participation Universities and public good Social reproduction Access to higher education Social inequality 



The authors wish to acknowledge the invaluable research assistance provided by Anna Scesa and Win-Yee Tang in the preparation of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Higher Education Research and InformationThe Open UniversityLondonUK
  2. 2.School of ManagementUniversity of BathBathUK

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