Policy and practice in widening participation: a six country comparative study of access as flexibility
Widening participation to higher education (HE) is central to the educational policies of countries throughout the world, and takes the form of a range of types of intervention, which can be classified within a three-fold typology. Access as in-reach refers to those programmes that prioritize recruiting potential students into the institution--examples include adult Access courses and certain summer school provisions for school-leavers. Access as out-reach is typified by efforts to widen participation and involve partnerships with one or more of employers, schools and the wider community. Alongside in-reach and out-reach exist a number of initiatives that can neither be categorized primarily as either of these, but focus on transformations and adjustments to the structure, administration and delivery of HE programmes. The third category of Access as flexibility refers to systematic as against discrete provision and includes such structural arrangements such as the use of accreditation of prior learning (APL), open and distance learning and the use of information and communications technology (ICT). In this paper--based on research commissioned by the Scottish Executive--policies and practices from Australia, Canada, England, Finland and France are compared and analysed with particular focus being given to flexibility. The implications of these policies and practices and their potential transferability to Scotland are considered.
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