Higher Education and Communities:\ud Barking & Dagenham

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Berzins, Karina ; Hudson, Anthony ; Storan, John (2010)
  • Publisher: Continuum: University of East London

The Higher Education Funding Council of England‘s report Young Participation in\ud Higher Education (2005) outlined patterns of engagement in Higher Education (HE)\ud and identified a number of parliamentary constituencies around the country with low\ud participation rates. Unsurprisingly, many of these areas suffer from widespread socioeconomic\ud deprivation. The importance of Widening Participation (WP) is clear – the\ud HEFCE guidance on WP states that ―social barriers to educational achievement\ud and HE participation entail a serious loss of talent in a modern economy.\ud Widening participation is therefore vital for economic competitiveness as well as\ud social justice.‖ (HEFCE, 2007) Indeed, research continually points to the fact that\ud learners from lower socio-economic backgrounds are far less likely to engage with HE,\ud even if they have achieved well academically throughout secondary school. Although\ud there have been improvements in WP in recent years, notably with Black and Minority\ud Ethnic (BME) groups (Connor et al, 2004), the gap in attainment between young\ud learners from lower versus upper socio economic groups remains significant. This\ud research in Barking and Dagenham is an attempt to understand the nuances of young\ud learners‘ choices and engagement with HE.\ud Through the research we attempt to establish why comparatively so few young\ud learners from the borough progress to HE from school. While ―barriers to participation‖\ud is a well used term, in this research a more holistic approach is preferred. The starting\ud point of this research is a more general understanding of the local socio-cultural\ud environment in which young learners in Barking and Dagenham live. This approach is\ud intended to highlight local assets, local problems and local conditions that might\ud prevent young learners from making the choice to go into HE.
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