Widening participation to doctoral education and research degrees: a research agenda for an emerging policy issue

Alistair McCulloch, Liz Thomas

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Widening participation is on the political agenda but, to date, policy, practice and research has focused on undergraduate education. This article identifies an emerging widening participation focus on doctoral education. Using England as a case study, the article examines this development within the context of the long-standing concern with equity in education, before reviewing the relatively small literature addressing who participates (and why) in doctoral and more general postgraduate education. An analysis of Widening Participation Strategic Assessments produced in 2009 by 129 English Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) reveals an emergent institutional awareness of this new development. Finally, a research agenda for widening participation to research degrees, focusing on research students, HEIs and policy-makers, is outlined. The conclusion calls for this agenda to be pursued at institutional, national and cross-national levels so that future policy can be made and implemented on the basis of a robust evidence base.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-227
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Doctoral education Widening participation Postgraduate research Diversity Higher education policy

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