The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

You are reading: Rethinking ‘widening participation’ in higher education

Sarah O’Shea, NCSEHE

Originally published in An invitation to reconceptualise Widening Participation through praxis, Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education
July 2020

The term ‘widening participation’ has gained currency across the higher education (HE) environment and is generally used unproblematically in both policy and institutional discourse. A Google search of this term returned nearly 20 million hits with a multitude of ‘widening participation’ units, departments and programs across HE providers both within Australia and beyond. However, the unproblematic use of this term is questionable as it is neither politically neutral nor unambiguous in intent. This brief ‘think piece’ will critically consider the concept of ‘widening participation’ by situating it politically, socially and also, in relation to dominant knowledge constructions. The aim of this piece is to foreground some of the more contentious and ambiguous nuances of this term in order to better consider equity in, through and beyond HE.

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