Stratification, Marketisation and Social Inequalities: Widening Participation in Higher Education in England. Pauline Whelan http:// www.wphe.org Centre for Social and Educational Research across the Life Course Leeds Metropolitan University. Overview.
Centre for Social and Educational Research across the Life Course
Leeds Metropolitan University
“If there is one thing on which nearly everyone who has studied the Government’s reforms agrees, it is that these will produce a more stratified sector, with much greater differences in institutional resourcing and esteem” (Brown, 2012)
Within a broad national policy context of competing definitions and conflicting agendas, there is considerable institutional autonomy around approaches to WP
Les Ebdon appointed as Director of OFFA in March 2012
“Professor Ebdon…responded by laying down the gauntlet to highly-selective universities with “patchy” records on access, saying that he would be prepared to use the “nuclear option” of stopping institutions from charging higher fees if they did not measure up.” (Times Higher, 8 February 2012)
“We sincerely hope that the new director of OFFA will come to recognise the tough challenges we face in trying to widen access” (Wendy Piatt, Russell Group, 2012)
“it is right that they[universities] should continue to consider how well they are doing and this is one of the important roles for the new Director for Fair Access.” (Prof Michael Driscoll, million+, 2012)
(HESA, Guide to PIs, 2011)
Example, 2010/2011, Percentage of young (under 21) full-time undergraduate entrants:
Present only at Elite/Selecting/More Prestigious Institutions (Selecting by ability uncontested and inevitable as a means to distribute limited places)
Academic ability is assessable (by HEIs)
Hierarchized and unevenly distributed among students
Predictive of future performance
One exception: Gifted and Talented Discourse present across all 20 WPSAs (78% of HEIs listed Gifted & Talented students as a target category, the third most frequently invoked category; Action on Access, 2009)
WP is variously discursively enacted across the sector, permitted by competing national policy agendas, conflicting philosophies and a considerable degree of institutional autonomy around how WP is approached/enacted.
Existing mechanisms and measures of WP ‘performances’ legitimise disparities, intersect with discourses of institutional status, and exacerbate sector stratification
‘Ability’ discourse of WP bound to accounts of institutional image/status/prestige and linked to the pressures of the market
The current intensification of the marketisation of English HE increasesthe importance of understanding the relationship between institutional stratification and WP
Is there still hope for WP in an increasingly marketised and stratified sector?