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Balancing national versus local priorities: analysing ‘local’ responses to the national widening participation agenda in six case study HEIs

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Based on interviews with widening participation managers, this article considers local responses to the national widening participation agenda within six case study higher education institutions (HEIs). Drawing on Edwards et al.'s (2009) adaptation of Bernstein's ideas to organisational contexts - in particular the ‘mediational power of institutions’ (2009:60) - the article explores the ways in which the case study institutions balanced their local priorities against the Labour government's ‘framing’ (Bernstein, 2000) of widening participation work.

It is argued that due to weak framing of widening participation at national level, the Labour government's widening participation agenda did little to change the existing culture and mission of the case study HEIs. Consequently, while some case study HEIs found a good fit between their own mission and the government's widening participation agenda, other institutions seemed to perceive a degree of dissonance - leading to a prioritising of local objectives over the national widening participation agenda.
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Keywords: Policy; institutions; widening participation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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