Widening participation in higher education: a play in five acts
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Policies and programs to address higher education disadvantage reveal four distinct approaches, each revealing certain assumptions about the nature of educational disadvantage. These are: creating mass higher education systems; redistributing or allocating certain places to disadvantaged students; changing the cultural practices of institutions; and shifting the policy focus from access towards higher education outcomes or benefits. Using the Australian higher education sector as a case study, each of these approaches is defined, identified and examined in regard to its impact on widening access and participation in higher education. An alternative approach – a fifth act – is proposed; one which concentrates on the need to understand the identity of the student, both in terms of how he/she understands disadvantage and what he/she wants out of higher education.
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