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Research Intelligence

Summer 2020

Research Intelligence Issue 143 is on the theme of 'Widening participation in practice'.

Widening participation in practice
Research Intelligence issue 143

Widening participation has been central to higher education policy for more than 20 years, yet debate continues about who and what widening participation is for. In this issue of Research Intelligence, a special section guest edited by Jon Rainford and Colin McCaig brings together a diverse range of voices to discuss the practice and operationalisation of widening participation (WP) in higher education, and to cast light on underexplored areas of practice such as those involving the third sector and the coalface of practice.

With contributors including both established voices within HE research and the teachers and practitioners enacting WP policy agendas in their daily work, the collection aims to stimulate thought and discussion concerning whose voices are represented within policy and research, and how future research could capture more diverse pictures of the sector.

Contributors to the section explore:

  • the distorting effect of the policy focus on progression to ‘elite’ institutions
  • the growing importance of the effective evaluation of WP activities to practitioners and funders
  • dominant discourses of WP
  • ‘possible selves’ as a more effective alternative to the notion of ‘raising aspirations’
  • how the overarching term ‘BAME’ masks the more complex structural role that ethnicity plays in access and degree attainment
  • how to encourage more engagement with and participation in, scholarly
    research concerning WP among practitioners
  • a case study of an effective progression partnership a between a sixth-form college and university.

Elsewhere in this issue we share BERA’s responses to the Covid-19 crisis and consider its impact on early-career researchers in particular; commemmorate the life and work of Professor Harvey Goldstein, whose recent research also features as one of two winners of BERA’s Public Engagement and Impact Award; consider recent developments in multicultural schooling and social and emotional education in Malta; and ask what next for creativity in 21st century education.


Profile picture of Jon Rainford
Jon Rainford, Dr

University of Bedfordshire

Dr Jon Rainford is an early career researcher working within the intersections between Sociology and Education. Having worked across a range of educational settings, his recently completed doctoral research focused on exploring the gaps between...

Profile picture of Colin McCaig
Colin McCaig, Professor

Professor of Higher Education Policy at Sheffield Hallam University

Colin has around 20 years’ experience as a WP researcher and evaluator, with a particular interest in higher education policy that impacts inequalities of access. He has been involved in large scale programme evaluations of collaborative...