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Professor Alison Fuller

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  1. Beyond an ‘open approach’ to widening participation in HE: the role of ‘mediating resources’Widening Participation in the 21st Century: A Decade of Learning24th and 25th June 2010, Milton Keynes Professor Alison Fuller

  2. Higher Ambitions • “We aim to widen participation through the expansion of the number of adults at university and by promoting a broader range of course models alongside the three year degree…In order to attract a greater diversity of students, more part-time study, more vocationally-based foundation degrees, more work-based study and more study whilst living at home must be made available.” (BIS November 2009)

  3. David Willetts, Minister of State, Universities and Science “To me, the only Mickey Mouse degree is one that’s mediocre, or sloppy, or lacking rigour and depth…Diverse provision of high quality can only be a good thing… We must provide a wide range of routes into further and higher education, including through high-quality apprenticeships.” May 2010

  4. The OU • “It [the OU] promotes educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.” (mission statement) • “The Open University was established to be ‘open’, with no entry requirements. Nearly all of our courses continue to have no entry requirements.” •

  5. Features of the L3 pool • Approx 20% have L3 as highest qualification; 62% of this group have vocational qualifications • ‘Vocational learners’ are from lower socio-economic groups • Males slightly more likely to have L3 as highest (21.9% vs 18.1%) • 36% of L3s in Skilled Trades & 28% in Personal Service occupations (2 most popular categories)

  6. Adult attitudes to HE • IES survey (2008) focuses on ‘those who could go to university but are not already there’ • Working adults positive about HE but those from lower SEGS less so • 30% said they would consider HE in future; those from BME backgrounds and disabled individuals more likely to consider it • The ‘waverers’ include those in mid-career who feel less well informed about HE, have family commitments, expect employer support • Strongest influence is family and peer group experiences of HE

  7. Knowing ‘the learner’ • Recent qualitative research helps us to get to know potential students • The research aimed: • To examine the extent to which HE is conceived as within the bounds of possibility for ‘potentially recruitable non-participating' adults • To explore how attitudes to HE and decisions about participation are distributed across, embedded and negotiated within inter-generational 'networks of intimacy

  8. Network-based decision-making • Critical nature of network characteristics Granovetter’s ‘strength of weak ties’, Bott’s strength of intra-group connections. • Networks as sites of varying forms of social capital • Varying degrees of access to social capital across our networks: relationship-based accounts and network-based accounts

  9. Social capital resources • ‘Bonding’ (intra-community ties) – ‘bridging’ (extra-community ties) (Putnam 2000) “…it is not enough sufficient simply to describe the size and density of a person’s network. We must also look at the resources that the network connects individuals to.” (Halpern 2005: 23) • To what extent are individual/community networks characterised by ‘linkages’ (linking social capital) between those with unequal resources? (Woolcock, Halpern) • What sort of resources provide linkages and how?

  10. Intergenerational apprenticeship tradition • “Well, at the time, as I say, when I left school you was encouraged to get an apprenticeship because they’d say once you’re a tradesman you’ve got a job for life, that’s what people in them days were saying. And it’s been a very comfortable way of working, you know, I’ve always been employed here and um, you probably get in your little comfort zone if you know what I mean…” (Andrew Gregory, entry point)

  11. Continuing the tradition • “Er, he [son] was at the right place at the right time, um, he got offered an apprenticeship with the firm he’s with now.” (Andrew Gregory) • “I [daugher] think they were quite surprised that I wasn’t going to college because in my particular school all the talks we had about career was going to college, there was nothing about doing a modern apprenticeship whatsoever, and my careers teacher gave me, she basically said if you don’t go to college and university then I’m not going to make anything of my life, erm, but I still ignored her advice and went for it.” (Sarah Gregory)

  12. Bucking the trend or following tradition? • “I think they were quite surprised that I wasn’t going to college because in my particular school all the talks we had about career was going to college, there was nothing about doing a modern apprenticeship whatsoever, and my careers teacher gave me, she basically said if you don’t go to college and university then I’m not going to make anything of my life, erm, but I still ignored her advice and went for it.” (Sarah, daughter)

  13. Nature of top down resources & bottom up capacity • “it got to a stage where I thought well, if I wanna go in for a different job I’ve gotta start learning the IT skills and go from there, otherwise, well, if you don’t know how to … well, that’s the future isn’t it.” (Andrew Gregory)

  14. Armstrong Mother - in law • Liz West (age 48) Network • Lives with Husband. • Location: Urban r • Not in paid work • Highest qualification: Level 0 • Experience of HE: No Entry Point Friend Friend • Rosie Armstrong (age 35) • Janet Miller (age 31) • Anna Mason (age 41) • Lives with partner and children • Lives with husband and children • Lives with partner and children <11years. <11years age 11+. • Location: isolated small town • Location: isolated small town • Location: isolated small town • Not in paid work • PT Bar worker • FT Development officer • Highest qual : Level 3 FAETC • Highest qualification: Level 3 • Highest qualification: Level 4 • Experience of HE: No • Experience of HE: No • Experience of HE: Yes Friend Friend Friend • Diana Humphrey (age 35) • Jane Newton (age ) • Charlotte Nicholson (age 37) • Lives with partner, expecting child. • Lives with children age <11. • Lives with partner and children • Location: urban • Location: urban <11 years. • FT HR adviser • • Location: urban • Highest qualification: level 3 • Highest qualification: Level 0 • FT administrator • Experience of HE: No • Experience of HE: No • Highest qualification: level 2 • Experience of HE: No Daughter • Laura Armstrong (age 13) • Lives with parents and siblings. • Location: isolated small town • n/a • Highest qualification: n/a • Experience of HE: n/a

  15. Intercommunity ties make the bridge • “…got collared by her [daughter’s] teacher at the time, Mrs [AAA], and she said ‘oh’, she said ‘you’ll come and do it.’ I said ‘do what?’ and she’s like ‘we’ve got a course starting at school’ and she said ‘it’s to do with the [Brown] College’… She said, ‘and it’s English, maths, basic English, basic maths, computers, IT, basic IT’ and we get to work with the children in school, well our own children in school. She said, ‘you’ll do it won’t you, it’s like an all day thing”. So I was like ‘OK’. So that was every Thursday…” (Rosie)

  16. Bottom up capacity building… • “They’ll say oh I did Family Learning; it was brilliant, you want to come along. And that is, it’s probably about the, you know the best way. And people that have been through Family Learning are the best people to encourage you to do Family Learning… because they can answer the questions quite honestly and openly.” (Anna - friend)

  17. …Combined with power of top down resources • “…it’s brilliant, it [family learning] just opens so many doors and different opportunities for different people. I mean one of the girls that was on one of my courses years ago is now an accountant.” (Rosie Armstrong)

  18. Cont. • “… it’s like doors and keys… And once they’ve unlocked that door you know, it’s what’s beyond it is so exciting that they really enjoy that for a while, but then they want that next door…we’ve had people that have gone on to university… I’ve had learners who have gone on to do midwifery, I’ve had learners who’ve gone on to do their teaching, I’ve had learners who’ve gone into the police force…I’ve had unemployed people going to work. I’ve had people come off disability that have gone in and done further training.” … (Anna)

  19. Network illustrations of social capital resources • Gregory network – illustrates strength of integration – inter-personal ties; bonding and bridging links to extra network ties through work but potential of top-down resource, the workplace learning centre, to provide linking social capital was not realised • Armstrong network – illustrates strength of bonding and bridging but also the potential of a community-based ‘top down resource’, the FLC to create social relationships and linkages which are facilitating mobility through educational participation.

  20. Conclusions • ‘Top-down resources and bottom-up capacity building need to be in a dynamic and cooperative relationship in order to assemble the range of people and materials capable of overcoming problems or to take advantage of opportunities.’ (Woolcock 1998: 185)

  21. FURTHER DETAILS • Visit: • Email: