Learning and not learning from policy, research and practice: widening participation and organisational learning

Authors: Hutchings, M. and Wardrop, A.

Start date: 7 December 2016

This paper examines the positioning of widening participation (WP) within higher education institutions (HEIs). We are interested in how the discourse, policy and practice of WP is learnt or not learnt within different institutions. The methodology uses a two-stage mixed methods appreciative inquiry to elicit current discourses on WP. By exploring WP from the perspective of organisational learning – how institutions gain, retain and share knowledge for access and equity – a complex picture of institutional dynamics, associated with power, freedom and control, emerges. We contend that policy and research on WP occupies a troubling position within higher education (HE) and that by illuminating the nature of organisational learning for WP, we can build more targeted values-led performative strategies for achieving greater access, equity and social capital within institutions and across the sector.

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