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Title: Interpretations and practice of widening participation within an institution of higher education
Author: Lightfoot, Nicola Jane
ISNI:       0000 0001 3609 9311
Awarding Body: Sheffield Hallam University
Current Institution: Sheffield Hallam University
Date of Award: 2007
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The interpretations and practices of widening participation are explored using a case study of an academic School within a post-1992 University. The research is based upon the assumption that there are no shared understandings of the agenda and that policy may be reinterpreted by stakeholders. Consequently individuals' interpretations and practice of widening participation were explored. Semi structured interviews with apposite staff were used to uncover their understandings of the agenda. The individuals held a range of posts, as it was believed important to explore differing perspectives of the agenda, but all were identified with the decision making process attached to widening participation. The research uncovers the multiple and complex factors which affect the interpretation and practice of widening participation. The role of government is important to that practice as it is argued that the University and School engage with it in a reactive manner. The impact of government policy is complex, and is seen to operate in both a direct and indirect manner upon the Institution. What is evident is that the relationship of government and the higher education institution is contested and that the practice of widening participation within the Institution is in part an outcome of this. Through the data the role of the university and academics was identified as important to the interpretation and practice of widening participation, as was the binary divide. However for both academics and Institution there were more pressing and important priorities which side-lined the agenda. In particular widening participation appeared to challenge perceived academic roles and purposes. The agenda was not seen as being a defining function of that role and hence was not owned by academics; a consequence of this is the way that it was interpreted and practiced. The implication for practice is that government needs to acknowledge the culture of higher education during policy construction, in order for it to be owned. In addition there is a need for academics to reflect upon their own practice and to reject instrumental constructions of the agenda. Rather, they need to engage in a redevelopment of their role which affords the learner an opportunity to contribute to the meaning of higher education. It is at this level, it is concluded, that the agenda can become transformative and move beyond quantitative definitions.
Supervisor: Coldron, John ; Clegg, Sue Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available