Governing Access and Recruitment in Higher Education

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This contribution to the Higher Education Encyclopedia considers how higher education institutions can embrace national and international policy aspirations to widen access and participation in higher education by traditionally under-served groups. In particular it focuses on how to lead and manage institutions to recruit a diverse population, expanding higher education beyond traditional elites, and enable them to be successful in higher education and beyond. There are three ways in which institutions can respond to this challenge: the academic, the utilitarian and the transformative approaches . The academic perspective ascribes non-participation to ‘low aspirations’ amongst certain target groups, and thus seeks to raise the aspirations of the already qualified potential entrants. The ‘utilitarian’ institution views non-traditional students as not just lacking aspirations, but also lacking academic qualifications and skills, thus requiring interventions and additional support to enable students to participate in an unreformed higher education, and progress into the graduate labour market. A ‘transformative approach’ seeks rather to change the institution to allow it to work with a more diverse population, and to become more inclusive. The latter therefore requires institutional change, and cannot be achieved by bolting on interventions. This contribution draws on current research in England exploring a ‘whole institution’ approach to widening participation, which is premised on the need for an inclusive institution, in which everyone contributes to widening access. In this context and viewing higher education institutions as complex organisations, this study has found that institutions need to address both cultural and structural issues, where culture refers to the values, attitudes and practices of the staff (and students), and structure refers to the institutional policies, processes and organisation and this is effectively underpinned by data about student diversity and outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions
EditorsPedro Nuno Teixeira, Jung Cheol Shin
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-8904-2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2017


  • Higher education
  • access
  • retention
  • success
  • widening participation
  • institutional responses

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