The Right to Higher Education

Beyond widening participation

By Penny Jane Burke

© 2012 – Routledge

226 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415568241
pub: 2012-03-07
US Dollars$52.95
Hardback: 9780415568234
pub: 2012-03-07
US Dollars$160.00

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About the Book

The landscape of higher education has undergone change and transformation in recent years, partly as a result of diversification and massification. However, persistent patterns of under-representation continue to perplex policy-makers and practitioners, raising questions about current strategies, policies and approaches to widening participation.

Presenting a comprehensive review and critique of contemporary widening participation policy and practice, Penny Jane Burke interrogates the underpinning assumptions, values and perspectives shaping current concepts and understandings of widening participation. She draws on a range of perspectives within the field of the sociology of education – including feminist post-structuralism, critical pedagogy and policy sociology – to examine the ways in which wider societal inequalities and misrecognitions, which are related to difference and diversity, present particular challenges for the project to widen participation in higher education. In particular, the book:

    • focuses on the themes of difference and diversity to shed light on the operations of inequalities and the politics of access and participation both in terms of national and institutional policy and at the level of student and practitioner experience.
    • draws on the insights of the sociology of education to consider not only the patterns of under-representation in higher education but also the politics of mis-representation, critiquing key discourses of widening participation.
    • interrogates assumptions behind WP policy and practice, including assumptions about education being an unassailable good
    • provides an analysis of the accounts and perspectives of students, practitioners and policy-makers through in-depth interviews, observations and reflective journal entries.
    • offers insights for future developments in the policy, practice and strategies for widening participation

The book will be of great use to all those working in and researching Higher Education.


'The Right to Higher Education not only provides critiques of current policy and practice, but goes further to consider how widening participation could provide a focus for positive renewal and transformation of universities. As such, this volume is not only of value to those involved in widening participation, but also for those interested in the development of the sector as a whole.' - Annette Hayton for the London Review of Education, University of Bath

Table of Contents

Introduction Part One: Contextualising Widening Participation 1. Deconstructing the Discourses of Widening Participation 2. Re/conceptualizing Widening Participation 3. Subjects of Widening Participation: identity and subjectivity Part Two: Methodologies and Approaches 4. Methodological approaches 5. Researching widening participation Part Three: Widening Participation Strategies and Practices 6. Raising aspirations: challenging discourses of deficit 7. Fair Access: challenging discourses of fairness and transparency 8. Lifting Barriers: conceptualising inequalities and misrecognitions 9. Professional subjectivities and practices Part Four: Imagining the future 10. Conceptualising WP differently 11. Beyong Widening Participation

About the Author

Penny Jane Burke is Professor of Education, Roehampton University, UK.

About the Series

Foundations and Futures of Education

Peter Aggleton, UNSW, Australia
Sally Power, University of Cardiff, UK 
Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, University of London, UK

Foundations and Futures of Education focuses on key emerging issues in education as well as continuing debates within the field. The series is inter-disciplinary, and includes historical, philosophical, sociological, psychological and comparative perspectives on the purposes and nature of education; increasing interdisciplinarity within the field; and the theory-practice divide.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Educational Policy & Reform / General