Thursday, April 3, 2008

Widening participation
The goal of widening participation in higher education is a major component of government education policy in the United Kingdom. It consists of an attempt to increase not only the numbers of young people entering higher education, but also the proportion from so-called "under-represented groups" (those from lower income families, people with disabilities and some ethnic minorities).
In this way it is hoped to redress the inequalities in participation between social classes. Widening participation is one of the strategic objectives of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The issue of widening participation became a political hot topic after the Laura Spence Affair which hit the headlines in 2000. HEFCE is pursuing this policy through a number of measures, including the payment of financial incentives to universities, and by funding the Aimhigher programme.
This policy is linked to the Labour government's target of increasing participation in higher education to 50% by 2010, and is part of a wider drive to achieve social justice.
Action on Access is the National Co-ordination Team for HEFCE's Widening Participation Activities. Based at Edge Hill University in the North West of England, Action on Access provides an invaluable resource for widening participation practitioners in Higher Education Institutions and partnerships.