When you hear the term ‘Widening
Participation’ or ‘WP’ for short, it vaguely
speaks for itself, but there is a lot more to the
widening of participation into higher education.
In a nutshell, WP focuses on underrepresented groups of society that either won’t or don’t want to go on to higher education. The reasons could be purely down to a lack of knowledge and support, but also, unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to that characteristic, either by society or personally.
Fair Access on the other hand, is the fairness attributed to the admissions process for someone accessing higher education.
You may have already worked with WP
teams at various universities and be aware
of some WP characteristics. It is important
to know these characteristics, to ensure that
no student misses out on opportunities or
potential support. Understanding WP and
having conversations with higher education
institutions could help to uncover an
underrepresented student within your school or
college. A well-known group that WP focuses
on are students in receipt of free school meals,
usually from a low income family and with a
low socioeconomic status.
Young people that live in disadvantaged areas are five to six times less likely to progress to higher education than those that live in the more advantaged areas (UCAS, End of Cycle Report, 2018), so it is no wonder these groups are targeted within WP schemes.
The lesser-known underrepresented groups (all showing a lower participation rate to higher education) are those from minority ethnic groups, mature students, disabled students and anyone that is care experienced/a care leaver. There are also groups which have similar equality gaps and are therefore defined as underrepresented, including carers, estranged students, travellers, refugees and service children.
So, what is in place at universities to ensure
that these underrepresented groups get the
extra support they need to access university?
Perhaps the most important thing to note here, is something called the ‘Access and Participation Plan’ (APP). Monitored by the Office for Students, these plans set up how universities will improve equality in not only accessing university through outreach targets, but also adhering to success and progress throughout their university journey.
Every university differs in their approach and
their targets, but their outreach offerings for
underrepresented groups will always include
Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)
sessions, course specific workshops (now
both in person and virtually), campus visits,
experience days, open days and project-based
events. Universities will have their own fair
access admissions opportunities too, such as
contextualised offers and various accessible
programmes if entry requirements or work
experience criteria aren’t met.
Every university that has an APP will have a dedicated person or team to deliver the WP and fair access agenda. There will be specific programmes and events for certain students identified, which is why it is important for you to discover these students so that any barriers they may find in accessing university can hopefully be removed by WP teams.
I would encourage anyone to contact university WP and Access teams to ask about engagement opportunities and be sure to sign up to any newsletters to remain up to date. We are here to provide your students with the best advice to break down those barriers and to start the journey in accessing higher education, so use us!
This free newsletter will include information on university events added to UniTasterDays, as well as details about new webinars and blog releases for you and your students.
by Alexandra Roberts
posted on 30 Nov '23
You may be asking yourself why, amongst a university’s outreach offering, there are specific events for students from certain backgrounds or with certain characteristics. Within this blog, we will explore university targeting.
by Sarah Hewitson
posted on 30 Nov '23
Applying for a creative course requires more than just grades. Developing a portfolio of work, attending an interview, or writing a personal statement will form a key part of your application. This blog includes lots of tips when crafting yours!