22 SES 03 C, Inclusion and Diversity in Academia
There are significant social inequalities in access to higher education internationally. Students from the most disadvantaged households remain persistently under-represented (Jerrim, Chmielewski, & Parker, 2015), are less likely to enter higher education, and when they do, are more likely to go to further education college rather than university (OECD, 2015; Scottish Funding Council, 2015; Sosu & Ellis, 2014). As a result, governments, supranational organisations such as the EU, and global agencies like UNESCO have expressed ambitions to reduce educational inequality and improve access to higher education (EHEA, 2012; UNESCO, 2015). Several factors such as academic performance, subject choice at secondary school and low motivation have been documented to account for this gap (e.g., Iannelli, Smyth, & Klein, 2015; (Iannelli, Smyth, & Klein, 2015; Chowdry, Crawford, Dearden, Goodman, & Vignoles, 2013; Gorard & Smith, 2006).
In Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has funded the Schools for Higher Education Programme (SHEP) to tackle the educational access gap. Each of the four SHEP programmes work in distinct geographical regions to raise aspirations, and provide support to students attending schools with historically low progression to higher education, in a bid to increase the number of students from these areas attending university. The programmes target early to late secondary students (aged 14 to 16), and undertake a range of activities such as campus visits, study skills programmes, and subject choice guidance. The initiative is premised on the notion that inequality in access is a result of a lack of agency on the part of pupils and their families as well as structural barriers inherent in the education system. This structure versus agency reference underpins influential sociological theories that aim to explain social inequalities in educational access, as well as psychological theories on why people behave in particular ways. For instance, Bourdieu’s social and cultural reproduction theory posits that educational inequalities are due to differences in socialisation around what is possible within different communities, their knowledge about the benefits of education, and the social connections they have (Bourdieu, Passeron, & Nice, 1990; Bourdieu, 1977). Thus, those from disadvantaged communities are unconsciously socialised to think that university is not for them, tend not to be aware of the advantages of higher education, and lack the social connections that can be mobilised to assist them achieve entry into university ( Nash, 1990; Bourdieu, 1986, 1977). The social psychological theory of planned behaviour, on the other hand, argues that individual behaviours, including going to university, are determined by attitudes, social norms, and perceived and real barriers to entry (Ajzen, 1991).
Despite the acknowledgement of the inequity of access to higher education in Scotland and the development of schemes to narrow this divide, very little is known about the impact of the various interventions. While modest progress has been observed with respect to an increase in the number of disadvantaged students entering university and for those attending SHEP initiatives (SFC, 2015), it is not clear what is facilitating this process. As far as we are aware, there is no systematic documentation of the nature of activities undertaken by these programmes, their impact on progression rates, or evidence on what makes these programmes successful. This study examines the extent to which SHEP initiatives contribute to widening access for pupils attending schools with historically low progression to higher education, and to document what makes them successful. We addressed the following research questions:
- What interventions are used by the SHEP schemes for widening access to higher education and what barriers do they address?
- In what ways do different stakeholders perceive the impact of these interventions?
- Are changes in progression rates to higher education influenced by participation in SHEP?
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211. http://doi.org/10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction. In J. Karabel & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Power and Ideology in Education (pp. 487–500). Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://doi.org/10.1017/UPO9781844654031 Bourdieu, P. (1986). Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste. In Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste (pp. 169–193). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Bourdieu, P., Passeron, J.-C., & Nice, R. (1990). Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. Theory, Culture & Society. London: Sage Publications. Chowdry, H., Crawford, C., Dearden, L., Goodman, A., & Vignoles, A. (2013). Widening participation in higher education: Analysis using linked administrative data. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society, 176, 431–457. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-985X.2012.01043.x EHEA. (2012). Making the Most of Our Potential: Consolidating the European Higher Education Area. EHEA Ministerial Conference Bucharest Communiqué. Gorard, S., & Smith, E. (2006). Review of widening participation research: addressing the barriers to participation in higher education. York. Retrieved from http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/6204/1/barriers.pdf Iannelli, C., Smyth, E., & Klein, M. (2015). Curriculum differentiation and social inequality in higher education entry in Scotland and Ireland. British Educational Research Journal, n/a–n/a. http://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3217 Jerrim, J., Chmielewski, A. K., & Parker, P. (2015). Socioeconomic inequality in access to high-status colleges: A cross-country comparison. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 42, 20–32. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.rssm.2015.06.003 Nash, R. (1990). Bourdieu on Education and Social and Cultural Reproduction. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 11(4), 431–447. http://doi.org/10.1080/0142569900110405 OECD. (2015). How do differences in social and cultural background influence access to higher education and the completion of studies? Education Indicators in Focus, 2015(October), 1–4. Scottish Funding Council. (2015). Learning for All: Measures of Success (Ninth Update) (No. SFC/ST/06/2015). Edinburgh. Retrieved from http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20120411230052/http://www.sfc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Our_Priorities_Access/Learning_for_All_2011.pdf Sosu, E., & Ellis, S. (2014). Closing the attainment gap in Scottish education. UNESCO. (2015). Incheon Declaration: Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. In World Education Forum 2015. Incheon, Republic of Korea. Retrieved from http://en.unesco.org/world-education-forum-2015/incheon-declaration
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