Purpose – This case study outlines, and critically reflects upon, Aston University's 10 year journey towards mainstreaming widening participation. It begins in 1999 when the institution had no Widening Participation Strategy or infrastructure, working towards the current position of a strategic and institution-wide focus on student diversity and inclusion. Critical reflection on this journey details key enabling factors, challenges faced and suggestions for practice.
Methodology/approach – The case study outlines the underlying principles of Aston's approach to widening participation. Key principles include a full student life cycle and evidence-based practice approach, inclusive practice for all, and staff development. These principles are illustrated through examples of practice such as the Student Peer Mentoring Programme, the Learning Development Centre and the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice.
Findings – Practice has been informed through seeking to better understand the changing needs of an increasingly diverse student profile. Diversity goes beyond the student groups targeted through widening participation programmes.
Practical implications – The case study reflects on challenges and enabling factors for the management of change, and suggests practice which may be transferable to other HE institutions.
Originality/value of paper – Aston has adopted a full student-life cycle from outreach work with primary schools, through to pre-entry and transition support, learner development, and on to graduation and employment. This is in contrast to the more predominant focus within the HE sector, upon the early stages of the student life cycle. Aston University has also embedded widening participation within strategies for learning and teaching, and for employability.
Ingleby, A. (2011), "Chapter 3.1 Mainstreaming Widening Participation: Institutional Transformation from Small Beginnings", Thomas, L. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Institutional Transformation to Engage a Diverse Student Body (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 97-106. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3628(2011)0000006010
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