Widening participation is a key government strategy in which students are taken in from
social groups or communities that have not traditionally entered higher education. Whilst
most institutes will welcome a new source of students, they recognise that these students
are likely to have different learning skills/expectations and research suggests they are
likely to need additional support if they are to succeed. As a key government target is to
improve retention rates, there has to be a commitment to ensuring good student
progression. The main aim for the programme is to have 50% of 18-30 years olds in
higher education. (Loughborough University, 1).
The main aim is categorized into three sublimations:
1)To make measurable progress towards widened participation, without increasing
student non-completion, while maintaining standards of excellence and recognising and
building on institutional strengths and diversity.
2)To stimulate new sources of student demand and adjust supply accordingly.
3)To improve opportunities for all students through lifelong learning.
Departments will need appropriate learning, teaching and assessment strategies as well
support systems to deal with the increasing diversity of the student intake. For example
the Engineering academics, at Loughborough university, have already had to deal with
the declining maths skills of students. It is clear that widening participation should not
equate to a lowering of standards. Higher education institutes will have to face the
increasing challenge of educating an increasingly diverse student group effectively whilst
maintaining the output standards that the profession demands.
Widening participation is not about reducing standards. The Higher Education Funding
Council for England aim to sustain standards by enabling higher education institutes with
a particularly strong commitment to widening participation to build and strengthen their
activities, by ensuring that they receive sufficient funding to cover the additional costs of
these and of supporting student success. In 2003-04...