What drives widening participation policy in the english market?

Colin McCaig, Ruth Squire

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


This chapter provides the context for understanding how English widening participation (WP) policy has interacted with the development of a marketised and expanding higher education (HE) system (the 'dual imperative' highlighted in the introductory chapter of this volume). It traces the intensification of market approaches in HE since 1997, examining how these interact with and become intertwined with evolving national WP policy concerns. Since 1997, WP for under-represented groups as a national policy aim has become firmly embedded in the activities undertaken by higher education providers (HEPs). Policy initiatives have moved between incentive and risk to encourage HEPs to address national and local inequalities of access and (later) student success and differential graduate outcomes. This chapter gives an overview of the key policy moments in this period and argues for how they have shaped the way in which the business of WP is enacted throughout the sector. It highlights how the business of WP drawn widely has become simultaneously a regulatory requirement, a way for institutions to differentiate themselves in the HE market and a key marker of institutional civic or social responsibilities. Situating this alongside the increasing focus on students and applicants as consumers, this chapter also begins to problematise the issues of collaboration and competition this creates.

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
  • Higher education expansion
  • Higher education policy
  • Marketisation
  • Regulation
  • Social mobility


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