The impact of Widening Participation upon education in this Country

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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...