If you read the papers, watch the news or are wired up to the constant feed of net-news, then you've probably heard the term 'Widening Participation' being chucked about recently. If you haven't - seriously; what are you doing with your life - do you live in a cave? If you are looking to start uni in 2012/13, or maybe you're already working hard towards your degree (read, working hard towards liver failure in the union), Scholarship Search has everything you need to know about 'Widening Participation'.

If you read the papers, watch the news or are wired up to the constant feed of net-news, then you've probably heard the term 'Widening Participation' being chucked about recently. If you haven't - seriously; what are you doing with your life - do you live in a cave? If you are looking to start uni in 2012/13, or maybe you're already working hard towards your degree (read, working hard towards liver failure in the union), Scholarship Search has everything you need to know about 'Widening Participation'.

Widening Participation: What is it and What Does it Mean to Me?

Posted in Undergraduate Finance Advice

If you read the papers, watch the news or are wired up to the constant feed of net-news, then you’ve probably heard the term ‘Widening Participation’ being chucked about recently. If you haven’t - seriously; what are you doing with your life - do you live in a cave? If you are looking to start uni in 2012/13, or maybe you’re already working hard towards your degree (read, working hard towards liver failure in the union), Scholarship Search has everything you need to know about ‘Widening Participation’.  Here goes:

 

In a nutshell:

Basically, ‘Widening Participation’ is a big sociological term which really just means – ‘making it easier for students from disadvantaged or ethnical backgrounds to go to uni.’ Aha! And, the reason why it’s such a hot topic at the moment is because of, you’ve guessed it, the increase in tuition fees – which affects students joining university in 2012.

 

What’s all the Fuss About?

So, what’s being done to ensure the people who deserve to go to university, but may not necessarily be able to afford it, get in? Well, according to a press release by the then Shadow Secretary of State for Universities and Science, Rt Hon David Willetts, in January 2010, just two months before the coalition government was elected: ‘anyone who has the academic ability and ambition should have the opportunity to go to university; regardless of how wealthy their parents are… Just one in five disadvantaged youngsters go to university, compared to well over half of young people from wealthier backgrounds and this gap is getting wider.’

But that was 2 years ago, way before the fees hike (well, we knew it was coming). Are they still committed? Post-extortion (after the fees have gone up), speaking at the Higher Education Funding Council; for England’s (HEFCE)  annual conference this is what he states, “We [the current government] now spend a lot of money trying to overcome the barriers which might stop those who are perhaps at weaker schools or in low participation neighbourhoods going to university.Ok, so let’s look at the real picture; poorer students are being put off applying to universities because of the massive increase in fees.

Writing in the guardian, Kim Catcheside – Education journalist and founder member of the Higher Education Commission, states, referring to the 9% drop in UCAS applications:students from poorer neighbourhoods are being deterred by higher fees.’  What this means is, the drop in applications from mature students also means a drop in accessibility to those from low-participation backgrounds.  The applications from school-leaver students (17/18 year-olds) didn’t really decrease significantly for 2012, in spite of increased tuition fees (the drop was 1.4%), but the drop in applications from mature students was much more significant. The tuition fee increase seems to be affecting mature students most meaning, by association, that it’s affecting those with less money/no history of uni attendance in the family.

 

What’s being Done?

That’s the picture. Widening participation is all about getting disadvantaged students into university. And at the moment, it is of utmost importance. So what’s being done? In other words, what is widening participation and is my university (or choice thereof) improving my chances of getting a great degree? Well, there are a number of schemes in place, according to Catcheside, ‘Universities have been spending significant sums for many years on improving access to HE. There have been some imaginative and innovative schemes which must already have increased opportunities for many people.’  But I’m pretty sure she’s referring to data recorded and information collected before the fees increase.

 

Here's Some of the Things in Place:

 

Scholarships, Bursaries and other Awards

 

Open days, summer schools and other schemes coaching talented poorer students, such as the Sutton Trust.

 

Foundation Years.


Willetts is extremely anxious to implement ways in which to increase university attendance amongst the poorest students and, in doing so, he intends to, ‘"develop a shared strategy for widening access to maximise the impact of the combined investment across the entire sector.” In addition, according to Willets , “In particular, [the government has] stressed the importance of all widening participation activity resting on a firm evidence base - derived both domestically and from overseas - in order to deliver improvements throughout the HE system.’ So in other words, increased pressure will be put on universities in order to ensure they put in to practices scheme, and create more scholarships and awards, in order to get more people from disadvantage backgrounds to go to university or, to use the terminology, to widen participation.

Matt M Jones