‘Diversity’ ‘Widening Participation’ and ‘Inclusion’ in Higher Education : An International study
Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Open University, Centre for Widening Participation
This article emphasises the complex and critical realities of 'Diversity' and 'Widening Participation' (WP); policy, discourse and practice in higher education, as 'understood' and experienced by undergraduate students of education. Building upon previous work which engaged with questions of hegemony in education, this paper develops the argument that 'under-represented' voices need to take centre stage- and that HEIs should critically consider why and how they positon 'under-represented' student groups (Gibson, 2006; 2015). The article draws on an international study involving 373 undergraduate students of 'Education' and 8 academics in six universities; one in Cyprus, one in New Zealand, two in the UK and two in the USA. This paper tells a story of tension, division and exclusion for students who have, through WP discourse, been defined as 'non-traditional' and thus positioned by their University as 'diverse'. It argues that, at an international level, the HE sector needs to be more responsive and proactive in engaging with their key stakeholders, their students. Our study, which made use of questionnaire and focus groups (FG), suggests this is particularly the case when it comes to critical aspects of the student experience, specifically institutional labelling and student exclusion from university discussions on what is and what is not 'inclusive education practice'.
This work was supported by the Higher Education Academy under grant number GEN 571
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Volume 18, Number 3, November 2016, pp. 7-33(27)