Widening access and participation in higher education
24 January 2017
Our widening participation research seminar brought together professionals, politicians and researchers from across the country to learn about the impact of pioneering research projects at the University.
The University of Bristol has been at the forefront of widening participation (WP) research for many years, investing a ground-breaking amount of resource into longitudinal research covering a wide range of WP issues. Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, who opened proceedings, said: ‘This should be an institution for the most talented, regardless of their background…diversity is one of the key tenets of our new strategy and something which we’re proud to put at the heart of who we are.’
The seminar marked the culmination of a series of six WP projects. These were commissioned to provide evidence to support work being done at the University and beyond, with the aim of increasing access to higher education and diversifying the student body. This research follows previous work conducted at the University which provided the evidence base for an innovative contextual admissions system. This system is currently in its second stage of development and has been adopted by a number of other institutions.
The wide range of projects presented on the day showed the complexity of the widening participation challenge. Topics included: the support students receive at secondary school; the impact of outreach activities; the role of bursaries; and how students are supported to succeed once they are at university. Research such as this is vital to the higher education sector to enable it to use the considerable resources that it invests in widening participation most effectively.
The event brought together a large number of stakeholders from across the country to explore how the sector might learn from this work. Representatives from Bristol City Council, OFFA, HEFCE and current UoB students gave their response to each of the research projects. Other guests also had the opportunity to feedback and share experiences, which generated much productive discussion.
Professor Hugh Brady added: ‘It is the responsibility of everyone, Vice-Chancellors included, to ensure that students of all backgrounds are welcome and supported in higher education.’
This seminar was an important step in encouraging those in the sector to consider how they can best support disadvantaged students, and giving them tools to do so.
Explore the research presented at the seminar, including video from the day, presentations and the teams’ policy briefings, on the WP website.