What is Widening Participation?

The UK higher education (HE) sector has a variety of providers offering a wide range of courses. But inequalities related to social class, income, ethnicity, locality, gender and first generation students are also part of the system. We see these reflected in levels of participation as well as in subjects studied, HE providers attended and postgraduate outcomes.

Higher education has the potential to be an important element in addressing socio-economic inequalities. A number of government initiatives have been put in place to ensure that HE institutions (HEIs) are playing their part. HEIs have developed a range of activities designed to address inequalities in:

  • Access to higher education
  • Student success while studying
  • Progression to employment or further study

These are often referred to as widening participation or WP activities and many HEIs have dedicated staff who organise a range of interventions such as:

  • Campus visits for primary school children
  • Residential summer schools for Year 12 students
  • Pre-sessional workshops for mature students returning to HE
  • Learning support for undergraduates with disabilities
  • Dedicated careers support for women engineering graduates
  • Ensuring students access the full range of HE experiences