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Who benefits from widening participation? A study of targeting in the South West of England

Hatt, Sue; Baxter, Arthur; Tate, Jim


Sue Hatt

Arthur Baxter

Jim Tate


As the Aimhigher programme is a targeted initiative, partnerships have to find ways of locating groups that are under-represented in higher education (HE) and selecting participants for interventions. If the selection criteria are not robust, resources will be misdirected, while overly narrow indicators can exclude legitimate participants and risk stigmatizing beneficiaries. Striking the right balance is difficult but essential if the programme is to be effective. This article explores the ways in which the Aimhigher partnerships in the South West of England have targeted participants and considers the extent to which their approach has directed the programme towards its intended beneficiaries. Using dual criteria of potential to benefit from HE and no parental experience of HE, these partnerships worked with schools to identify school students to take part in their activities. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data about a sample of 557 school students, 80% had no parental background in HE and 83% achieved five or more A*–Cs at GCSE. Although the criteria for selection were being accurately operationalized, only a third of the sample were from socio-economic groups IIIm, IV and V that have been identified as under-represented in HE. Nevertheless, the programme was reaching those without parental experience of HE who might need more support to progress to HE. In addition, those from manual backgrounds were most likely to have obtained most exposure to the programme through multiple interventions. This evidence suggests that the Aimhigher programme in the South West is indeed reaching its prime target group. © 2005, NATFHE.


Hatt, S., Baxter, A., & Tate, J. (2005). Who benefits from widening participation? A study of targeting in the South West of England. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 29(4), 341-351.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2005
Journal Journal of Further and Higher Education
Print ISSN 0309-877X
Electronic ISSN 1469-9486
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 4
Pages 341-351
Keywords widening participation, targeting, South West of England
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Based upon a unique longitudinal tracking study of a group of young people who have taken part in widening participation activities in the South West of England, this paper explores the extent to which WP initiatives are reaching their intended beneficiaries. The findings have been used by the DfES, HEFCE, Action on Access and Aimhigher practitioners and are impacting upon the development of widening participation policy and practice across England. The work has led to an invitation to attend a national widening participation symposium with the Minister of State, to take part in working groups, and to present at national conferences, workshops and seminars. Hatt was responsible for 65% of this output.

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