The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 257–271 | Cite as

Widening and expanding participation in Australian higher education: In the absence of sociological imagination

  • Trevor GaleEmail author


Social inclusion in Australian higher education was high on the agenda of the recent Rudd/Gillard Australian Government. This paper offers an assessment of that agenda, particularly the extent to which it worked in favour of under-represented groups. It argues that the Government’s widening and expansion policies and its equity and aspiration strategies lacked sociological imagination, projecting deficits onto individuals who refused to be taken in by its ambitions for higher education participation. The paper concludes that in the absence of a sociological imagination in government policy, the freedoms of disadvantaged groups continued to be curtailed: not just to choose futures in keeping with their goals but also the freedom to formulate choices.


Higher education Widening participation Equity Aspiration Sociological imagination 



I am grateful to Stephen Parker and Tebeje Molla, with whom I have been in conversation about these matters for some time now and who read and commented on earlier versions of this paper. I am also grateful for the support of The Warrnambool Collective. An earlier version of this paper was published in H. Zhang, P. Chan & C. Boyle (Eds.) Equality in education: Fairness and inclusion. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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