Purpose – This case study identifies, from a personal perspective, the essential conditions for institutional transformation that will ensure the effective mainstreaming of widening participation (WP).
Methodology/approach – This case study is a personal commentary reflecting on 10 years working as both a WP practitioner and an academic member of staff at Leeds Metropolitan University. The case study also draws on empirical research into WP policy and practice undertaken at the university between 2008 and 2009.
Findings – Research undertaken as part of the Action on Access programme ‘Mainstreaming and Sustaining Widening Participation in Institutions’ and as part of an institutional Quality Enhancement Audit found that whilst there were many examples of excellent WP practice, many staff were no longer sure what WP meant within the institution. In addition, whilst members of the management team felt that the institution still had a strong commitment to WP, other staff were less convinced. The research also highlighted that the relative incoherence in terms of WP definitions and practice meant that people were drawing solely on their own local and personal values and were blaming others when these peoples' practice was contradictory to their own.
Practical implications – The case study outlines the conditions needed to effectively mainstream and sustain WP, including establishing a ‘golden thread’ of WP that runs through all key policy and strategy documents across the university.
Social implications – Whilst the principles of mainstreaming WP are sound, strategies need to be put in place to ensure that actual practice is not in danger of privileging some students at the expense of others.
Stevenson, J. (2011), "Chapter 8.1 Establishing a ‘Golden Thread’: The Path to Ensuring Institutional Transformation", 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. 293-300. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3628(2011)0000006028
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