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'Widening Access' to higher education: the reproduction of university hierarchies through policy enactment

Evans, Ceryn ORCID:, Rees, Gareth, Taylor, Christopher ORCID: and Wright, Caroline 2019. 'Widening Access' to higher education: the reproduction of university hierarchies through policy enactment. Journal of Education Policy 34 (1) , pp. 101-116. 10.1080/02680939.2017.1390165

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Patterns of participation in higher education (HE) in the UK, as elsewhere, have been marked by social inequalities for decades. UK Governments have responded with a plethora of policies and agendas aimed at addressing this broad social issue. However, little is known about how higher education institutions (HEIs) interpret and ‘enact’ these policies in relation to institution-specific contexts. Drawing on concepts from policy sociology this paper examines how HEIs in one nation state, Wales, enact its Government’s policy on ‘widening access’ to higher education. Interviews with a range of ‘policy actors’ along with analyses of institutional ‘widening access’ policy documents, reveal divergences between HEIs in how this policy agenda is interpreted and delivered. These differences reflect institution-specific contexts – not least their internal politics and assumptions about the type of students they admit, but also their interests and priorities in relation to their positions within a global, marketised, HE system. The implications of this for the reproduction of university hierarchies in the UK, as well as social inequalities more generally are brought to the fore.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): SSH Titles
ISSN: 0268-0939
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 October 2017
Date of Acceptance: 4 October 2017
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 00:10

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