22 SES 09 B, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
The onset of recession from 2008/9 and the election of a Conservative led coalition government in the United Kingdom in 2010 has changed the funding landscape for higher education in England (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have devolved responsibility and are not considered in this paper) in ways that may prefigure how other neo-liberal states respond to the crisis if they focus on the public cost of higher education. The UK government, whilst rhetorically committed to widening access to higher education, has enacted a new funding and student support regime that not only increases the costs of studying (tuition fees up to £9,000 per year) but also reduces the amount of financial support made available to students from poorer backgrounds. Meanwhile the responsible Secretary of State has made speeches warning the HE sector of contraction (BIS 2010) and the government's White Paper Students at the Heart of the System further signalled the change in emphasis from raising aspirations for all to identifying the brightest applicants and ensuring that they are prepared to attend only the 'best universities' (BIS 2011).
The new funding regime removes the cap on recruitment of the highest attaining applicants and the new student support system the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) focuses support on far fewer poor applicants than previously. The sector has responded in the form of new access agreements that English HEIs have to lodge with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in order to be able to charge fees above £6,000 per year. Analysis of the content of agreements - the main focus of this paper- shows a change in the language used by institutions when rationalising access policies, in the priorities identified for outreach expenditure and in the criteria set for the distribution of (newly limited) financial support for underrepresented groups.
The theoretical conceptualisation for this analysis draws on marketing theory as an explanation of institutional behaviour (Gibbs and Knapp 2002; Maringe 2005; McCaig 2010) and it also draw on the work of Donald Heller in the United States who has written on the pervasive impact of 'merit aid' on access policies (Heller 2006; 2008). Merit aid - financial support based not on criteria of need but on merit or ability as demonstrated by prior educational attainment - supports the government's agenda of focusing on a narrower range of students attending a narrower range of 'good' universities. The paper sets these new developments in the context of the rise and fall of widening access policy in England over the past 30 years, and specifically the increasing focus on social mobility (as opposed to social justice) through the HE system, and 'fair access' (as opposed to widening participation) in recent years as institutions respond to the contraction of the system. The paper will be of relevance to delegates from nations that have to balance financial imperative to shift the burden of the costs of higher education from the public to the private realm with the preservation of equity and the need to widen access.
BIS (2010) Vince Cable Higher Education speech, Press release, 15th July 2010 BIS (2011). Students at the Heart of the System, TSO, July 2011 Brown, R & Scott, P (2009) The Role of the Market in Higher Education, Higher Education Policy Institute. Callender, C and Jackson, J. (2008) Does Fear of Debt Constrain Choice of University and Subject of Study? Studies in Higher Education, 33(4): 405-29 Gibbs, P & Knapp, M (2002) Marketing Further and Higher Education Research: an educators guide to promoting courses, departments and institutions, London, Kogan Page. Harrison, N (2011) Have the changes introduced by the 2004 Higher Education Act made higher education admissions in England wider and fairer?, Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 26, No. 3, May 2011, 449–468 Heller, D (2006) Merit Aid and College Access, Paper presented at the Symposium on the Consequences of Merit-Based Student Aid, Madison: University of Wisconsin Heller, D (2008) Financial Aid and Admission: Tuition Discounting, Merit Aid and Needs-aware Admission, National Association for College Admission Counselling 2008 White Paper Maringe, F (2005) Interrogating the crisis in higher education marketing: the CORD model, International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 19, No.7, 2005 pp.564-578. McCaig, C (2008) Variable tuition fees and widening participation: the marketing of institutions through access agreements, Paper presented to the EAIR Forum, Copenhagen, August 2008. McCaig, C and Adnett, N (2009) English Universities, Additional Fee Income and Access Agreements: their impact on Widening Participation and Fair Access, British Journal of Education Studies, Vol. 57, No.1 March 2009 pp.18-36. McCaig, C (2010) Access agreements, widening participation and market positionality: enabling student choice? in Molesworth, M, Nixon, L, and Scullion, R (eds) The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer, Routledge, London and New York, ISBN 978-0-415-58447-0
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