Widening participation research: projects in progress

The influence of family estrangement and homelessness on student success

Author: Becca Bland, Stand Alone

“There are some underlying assumptions in HE policy and practice around the capacity of young people, who are not leaving the care system, to access family support and/or maintain a strong and supportive relationship with their parents or family. Policies around student housing and accommodation are an example of where such assumptions can cause severe difficulties for students who do not have the support of their parents or family. The purpose of this research is to explore the relationship between students who are estranged or disowned from their parents or family and their experiences of homelessness whilst studying, and the subsequent impact on the student life cycle. I will outline how key interventions from HEIs can improve retention for such students in order to inform policy and practice.”

Research poster: The influence of family estrangement and homelessness on student success

White working class boys: the issue of categorisation in HE widening participation

Authors: Jade Hunter, Suzanne Hewings and Amy Suddards, University College London

“This literature review aims to provide an understanding of what is meant by the categorisation of White Working Class Boys as a group usually underrepresented in Higher Education. The paper critiques the use of working class as a defining factor as an evidence-based measure, exploring the metrics that universities are using to capture this group. It considers whether a focus on class can serve to create a sense of ‘otherness’ within the higher education context. The paper seeks to provide a more relevant understanding of the term, to explore whether or not ‘working class’ is a useful or appropriate term to use within widening participation.”

Research poster: Who are white working class boys? The construction and measurement of identity

Widening participation study abroad summer school

Authors: Elaine Warrener and Nick Lowthorpe, University of Hull

“A recent study by the British Council suggest students who undertake study abroad benefit from great self-confidence and enhanced employability (Broadening Horizons 2016, British Council). The University of Hull has committed to invest a portion of their widening participation spend to provide an opportunity for students from low socio-economic backgrounds to engage with a study abroad activity that they may typically be restricted from. Initial feedback has demonstrated that whilst the preparatory support has been invaluable, the ability to articulate and utilise the period of study as the basis in which to explore the knowledge, skills and attributes gained is absent. Therefore, whilst the study abroad experience is acknowledged as ‘beneficial’, additional support must be provided to enable to students to identify, ‘un-pack’ and apply their newly acquired skills.”

Research poster: Widening participation study abroad summer school. Summer in Denmark

White ‘working class’ boys: challenges for widening participation policy and practice

Author: Paul Blagburn, Univerity of Warwick

“The purpose of this conceptual study is to provide some coherence to the discourse used to frame white ‘working class’ males through the access to higher education policy lens, with the goal of supporting future institutional widening participation policy and practice.”

Research poster: White ‘working class’ males: challenges for widening participation policy and practice

Defensive othering: theorising British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women’s strategies and constructions of self-identity within higher education and the labour market

Author: Farhana Ghaffar, Oxford Brookes University

“This qualitative study analyses how British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women within the English higher education system and labour market use ‘defensive othering’ as a strategy for constructing their individual narratives of success. By distancing themselves from other Pakistani and Bangladeshi women that they perceive to be less successful, they create a narrative of their own innate individual superiority. Drawing on this, I explore how these students reinforce inequality by reproducing stereotypes held by the wider community about Muslim women. This paper goes on to examine the wider implications that this may have on the widening participation strategy and practical outreach work targeted at this body of students.”

Research poster: “I’m not your typical Asian”: defensive othering amongst British Pakistani and Bangladeshi females

Supporting the access and transition of mature learners into higher education through a programme of targeted interventions

Authors: Kelly Barnett and Michael Khachatour, Kingston University

“The purpose of this study is to identify areas of best practice, strengths and weaknesses in relation to current support for mature learners entering higher education. By discussing the theoretical perspectives of mature learner provision and reviewing the support available through the University’s Compact Scheme the overall aim is to make recommendations for institutional wider policy and practice in relation to the access and transition of mature learners. The findings may also provide a useful framework to assist widening participation practitioners with formulating a mature learner strategy.”

Research poster: Writing a mature learner strategy – a practical guide for practitioners

A transformative approach to access and engagement in higher education: a case study of analysis of an alternative ‘campus culture’ at Coventry University College

Author: Anthony Aylmer, CU Coventry

“This study focuses on the transformative approach to Widening Participation (WP) as a framework for analysis, defined by Thomas and Quinn (2007) as undertaking significant changes in an attempt to meet the needs of underrepresented groups. In particular, this qualitative study will explore the alternative ‘campus culture’ (Thomas, 2002; Thomas, 2002) that Coventry University College Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Coventry University, has adopted. The purpose is to develop an understanding of the challenges, considerations and areas of good practice associated with the implementation and engagement in a truly transformative approach to WP within a Higher Education setting. Actor Network Theory (Latour, 2005) will be used as a theoretical lens due to its focus on both human and non-human actants in an attempt to conceptualise relationships between people and society.”

Research poster: A case study analysis of an alternative ‘campus culture’ at CU Coventry

A systematic review of the relation between peer assisted learning schemes and student success: a widening participation perspective

Authors: Michael Hall and Sarah-Louise Collins, University of Winchester

“The purpose of this systematic review is to identify the extent that PAL interventions impact the engagement and success of students from under-represented backgrounds.  The goal is to inform approaches to the evaluation of PAL interventions in higher education, and to support senior leaders in the higher education sector in the development of relevant policy and strategy.”

Research poster: Widening participation perspectives on peer assisted learning

Widening access to selective universities: an evaluation of the academic enrichment programme

Author: Shaheen Barkat, University of Birmingham

“The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of a progressive university outreach programme on participant’s progression to selective universities. Participant surveys were conducted at different points of the programme across six cohorts to evaluate the impact of the programme on participant’s academic aspirations, motivation and progression to selective universities. The findings of the study will contribute to growing the body of knowledge on the evaluation and effectiveness of university widening access interventions.”

Research poster: Widening access to selective universities: an evaluation of the academic enrichment outreach programme

Reaching out to boys: understanding male participation in post 16 outreach activity

Author: Helen Smith, University of York

“The purpose of this longitudinal, qualitative study is to illuminate the factors which influence male, post 16 students to remain part of a widening participation compact programme once they have begun one.  This paper is intended to be of use to those wishing to understand more about male engagement in outreach activity and to support the creation of strategies to increase male participation in the future.”

Research poster: They stayed! Reaching out to boys: understanding male participation in post 16 outreach activity

Student success and student funding: investigating disadvantaged undergraduates’ retention and attainment when they are in receipt of university financial support that is allied with non-financial support interventions

Author: Matt Dollery, University of Leeds

“The purpose of this longitudinal mixed methods study is to highlight any correlations between positive WP-student success outcomes (relating to retention and academic attainment) on a combined financial and non-financial support programme at the University of Leeds. Where viable it will also examine whether the non-financial support, the financial support or the combination of both is most likely to lead to a positive correlation.  The goal is to help influence future research and practice within the University of Leeds and the HE sector.”

Research poster: Does money mean success? Investigating interactions between non-financial support, funding and students

The financial factors associated with high and low wellbeing in undergraduate students: an institutional case study

Author: Jessica Benson-Egglenton, Queen Mary University of London

“The purpose of this study is to enrich the relatively small body of research which examines the relationship between a student’s financial circumstances and their mental wellbeing while at university, with the aim of providing a greater evidence base to inform policy and practice around financial support and enhancing the student experience.”

Research poster: Money, wellbeing and the student experience: an institutional case study

Engaging primary school children: a schools science fair engaging widening participation students with STEM careers

Author: Andrew Ross, University of Bath

“This paper presents our experience of developing and delivering a science fair for primary and secondary school students from widening participation backgrounds with a particular focus on the transition between the two. It will link theory and practice and be useful for practitioners and programme planners.”

Research poster: Improving science capital: supporting parents and children to undertake research

The more colours you add, the nicer the picture: why are BAME students underrepresented on arts degrees? 

Author: Nienke Alberts, London Higher

“This study aims to identify barriers to studying creative art and design subjects in higher education. It draws on quantitative research to explore patterns of participation by ethnicity, participation background, gender, and their intersections. Qualitative analyses are used to understand why differences may exist, and to identify potential underlying issues that stop certain groups accessing creative higher education subjects.”

Research poster: Why are BAME students missing from the arts in London? 

‘Blurred boundaries’ – encouraging greater dialogue and understanding between student recruitment and widening participation

Author: Chris Bayes, University of Liverpool

“This paper seeks to encourage greater dialogue between Widening Participation practitioners and Student Recruitment professionals.  The aim of this paper is to develop greater understanding and appreciation of the similarities, but more importantly the nuanced differences between the two functions with the intention of further discussion between the two functions.  The paper makes recommendations for a mutually beneficial approach towards the relationship between Student Recruitment and Widening Participation based on case study examples of where the two functions have been able to work in tandem towards institutional objectives.”

Research poster: ‘Blurred boundaries’ – encouraging greater dialogue and understanding between student recruitment and widening participation

Using personal data to identify participants for widening participation outreach activities: taking a more research led approach

Author: Katherine Sela, University of Surrey

“Collecting individualised student data helps to identify students who are from disadvantaged or under-represented groups and enables them to be prioritised for outreach activities.  This raises a number of ethical issues, specifically around informed consent, confidentiality and data sharing. The purpose of this case study is to describe how these issues have been managed and suggests that a more research-led approach may be required.  This will be useful at a national and local policy level for widening participation practitioners in the context of increased regulation around data protection and the collection, use and sharing of student data by higher education institutions.”

Research poster: Data protection: is student data being dealt with in an ethical way?

The widening participation iceberg: engaging with the source or the symptom of underrepresentation? 

Author: Gino Graziano, University of Sussex 

“This literature review will aim to discuss whether approaches to widening participation are effective in reaching target audiences.  The paper will consider terminology, practice and outcomes, against policy and theory, to understand if and how the widening participation project has changed attitudes to higher education, and if there are more effective methods.”

Research poster: The widening participation iceberg: engaging with the source or the symptom of underrepresentation?