Conclusion: evolving markets; where next for the business of WP?

Colin McCaig, Jon Rainford, Ruth Squire

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The final chapter of this volume brings together the key debates from this book and situates them within an ever-developing policy landscape. It argues that the themes this volume raises around the two competing uses of 'business', both figurative and literal, continue to drive developments in widening participation (WP). It draws together threads around the figurative usage of business to consider the ways in which the ideology of marketisation has impacted the sector to date and continues to shape policies in this area. Considering the more literal ways in which WP has become the 'business' of the sector, this chapter draws together threads from across the second part of this book, which examined how higher education providers (HEPs), further education colleges, new providers and third sector WP organisations all enact WP as part of their 'business as usual'. This chapter concludes with a summary of changes to the market structure introduced since the Higher Education Research Act (HERA, 2017), such as the levelling up White Paper (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 2022), the Department for Education (DfE, 2022a) higher education policy statement and Office for Students (OfS) regulatory consultations (OfS, 2022b), and questions whether these represent minor tweaks to a recently embedded policy environment or indeed render much of the 2017 settlement redundant. Whether these are considered as continuity or change, in the final analysis, they suggest that there remain tensions among those responsible for the executive/ideological policy direction, with corresponding knock-on effects elsewhere on the enactment staircase. What remains clear, however, is that the contradictions inherent in the dual imperative-the human capital needs of the country juxtaposed against a desire for a more socially just society-remain unresolved while a 'level playing field' market order is layered over such a steep institutional hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe business of widening participation
Subtitle of host publicationpolicy, practice and culture
EditorsColin McNab, Jon Rainford, Ruth Squire
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781800430495
ISBN (Print)9781800430501
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Higher education policy
  • Human capital
  • Levelling up
  • Marketisation
  • Social justice
  • Widening participation


Dive into the research topics of 'Conclusion: evolving markets; where next for the business of WP?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this