"Targeting disadvantaged learners": Will we really narrow the social class gap in participation by targeting our most deprived communities first?
Harrison, N. and Hatt, S. (2009) "Targeting disadvantaged learners": Will we really narrow the social class gap in participation by targeting our most deprived communities first? Journal of Access Policy and Practice, 6 (2). pp. 61-80. ISSN 1740-1348
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Publisher's URL: http://www.niace.org.uk/
This paper examines the 2007 guidance for widening participation practitioners issued by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the ramifications of its targeting strategy in Southwest England. Drawing on data on higher education participation rates, deprivation and distribution of households from lower socio-economic groups, it investigates the nature of the areas covered by, and excluded from, the targeting criteria established by HEFCE. Using four case studies, the paper suggests that the HEFCE targeting criteria establishes a geographical proxy which does not fit well with the distribution of the households which it is seeking to target in order to narrow the social class gap. In particular, the proxy has the effect of disproportionately focusing efforts on larger areas of deep-rooted urban deprivation. The paper concludes by questioning whether short-term activities delivered by Aimhigher and other outreach practitioners are likely to have a measurable impact on university participation in these areas within the three year funding horizon provided by HEFCE.
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