Widening participation policy and practice within the higher education sector in England
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of West London
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Summary of the impact
This body of funded research has been conducted primarily in
collaboration with Professor Mary Stuart (Kingston University, and
currently University of Lincoln) as Principal Investigator. The University
of West London collaborators are Dr Catherine Lido and Dr Lucy Solomon.
The research highlights factors negatively-impacting Widening
Participation (WP) student populations in terms of: experiences,
progression and academic outcomes, and evaluates/promotes key variables to
support WP students in Higher Education and beyond (e.g. postgraduate
study, career success). Findings from our triangulated, mixed-methods
approach reveals `sense of fit/belonging' and `connection/identification'
with the university, as predictors of students' wellbeing, academic
self-esteem and academic achievement and retention. The impact can be seen
in peer-reviewed books/papers, conferences, online presence and
policy/practices within HEIs.
This body of interdisciplinary research was the first to apply both
Social Identity frameworks (Tajfel & Turner, 1974) and Cultural
Capital (Bourdieu, 1973) simultaneously toward practical evaluation,
assessing and promoting interventions to support WP students within
undergraduate and postgraduate study, and beyond into successful career
The trajectory of this body of research can be seen clearly in its track
record of funding from 2008 onward. This was preceded by a project funded
by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) entitled `Widening participation
to postgraduate study: Decisions, deterrents and creating success'
(2006- 07), in which Drs Lido and Solomon collaborated with the Principal
Investigator. The report was well-received and led to further research,
funded initially by the HEA and subsequently by ESRC and West London
Lifelong Learning Network. The research programme explores the moderating
and mediating factors in WP students' achievement and experience within
and beyond university, and has been disseminated via national and
international conferences, workshops and peer- reviewed publications.
Grants received during this time period include:
Higher Education Academy (£27,581): `Student Diversity, extra-curricular
activities and perceptions of graduate outcomes' (2007-08). Dr Lido was
Co-applicant with lead researcher Professor Mary Stuart (then Kingston
University), and Professor John Field (University of Stirling). Project
details, reports, and links to project outcomes can be found at:
ESRC Research Grant (£79,814): The Impact of Social Identity and Cultural
Capital on Different Ethnic Student Groups at University' (2007-09). Dr
Lido was Co-applicant with lead researcher Professor Mary Stuart (Kingston
University). Project details, reports and links can be found at:
West London Lifelong Learning Network (£10,000): Key Statistical Skills
Surgeries for a Widening Participation Student Population' (2008-09). Dr
Lido was Principal Investigator. The full report can be found at:
References to the research
• Solomon. L. (2013). `Pre-Arrival' pp83-103 in Morgan, M. (Ed.) Supporting
student diversity in higher education - a practical guide. Oxford:
Routledge. ISBN13: 978-0415818230.
• Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L. & May, S. (2012). Choosing
a student lifestyle? Questions of taste, cultural capital and gaining a
graduate job. In Hinton-Smith, T. (Ed.) (2012). Issues in
widening participation: Casting the net wide? London: Palgrave.
pp129-145. ISBN 9780230300613.
• Stuart, M., Lido, C. & Morgan, J. (2011). Personal stories -
How students' social and cultural life histories interact with the field
of higher education. International Journal of Lifelong Education,
30(4). 489-508. ISSN 0260-1370. DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2011.588463.
• Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L. & May, S. (2011). The
impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student
experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations.
Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3). 203-215. ISSN:
1469-7874. DOI: 10.1177/1469787411415081.
• McMillan, L. & Solomon, L. (2008). 'A spoonful of sugar helps
the medicine go down', pp102-107 in Crosling, G., Thomas, L. &
Heagney, M. (Eds). Improving student retention in higher education:
the role of teaching and learning. London: Routledge. ISBN: 0-415-
• Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, S., Solomon, L., & Akroyd, K. (2008).
Widening participation to postgraduate study: Decisions, deterrents,
and creating success. HEA Published Report (April 2008).
Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/WPtoPG_Stuart.pdf
Details of the impact
A body of funded and published research activity by Dr Catherine Lido and
Dr. Lucy Solomon, in collaboration with Professor Mary Stuart (now
Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln), has lent itself to interventions,
workshops, conference days and policy implications for the support,
retention, progression and employability of widening participation
students. This work began in approximately 2006, securing Higher Education
Academy (HEA) funding to explore widening participation, alongside an
international expedition to assess WP funding across five countries (Action
on Access funded), and to evaluate AimHigher initiatives
within the UK. Post-2008, the body of research took the direction of
examining widening participation students before, during and after their
studies, looking especially beyond classroom experiences, for a more
holistic and interdisciplinary approach to diversity and inclusion in the
The team's expertise in understanding the impact of gender, disability
and socio-economic status (SES) were applied initially within an HEA
project to widen access into postgraduate study. The project report (HEA,
2008) is: part of the HEA EvidenceNet resource library, has
promoted access to PhD programmes particularly amongst black British
students, forms part of the `Higher Education Empirical Research Database'
for informing policy and practice, and forms part of a report to the
Secretary of State (BIS) for the `One Step Beyond' initiative).
The HEA EvidenceNet resource library contain also the outcomes of
further funded work on the importance of extracurricular activities to
strengthen widening participation students' employability, as published in
`Active Learning in Higher Education' (Stuart, Lido, Morgan, Solomon,
& May, 2011). This publication was listed (October 2012) as being
amongst the top 20 most-accessed papers within this journal.
A further paper in the International Journal of Lifelong Education
(Stuart, M., Lido & Morgan, 2011) led to a book chapter aimed at HE
practitioners entitled `Choosing a Student lifestyle? Questions of
taste, cultural capital and gaining a graduate job', published in
`Issues in Widening Participation' Hinton-Smith (ed.), 2012. According to
the publisher, Palgrave MacMillan, it gives insight into the "extent to
which higher education is able to act as a force for social equalization
or exclusion of opportunities". This, together with Dr Solomon's chapter:
`Pre-Arrival' in the book `Supporting Student Diversity in Higher
Education - a practical guide' (Morgan, 2013) have been widely accessed by
UK and international HEI practitioners.
In addition, This body of research has been disseminated at national and
international conferences at: the Centre for Social Psychology in Ireland
(Limerick), the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (Warwick, UK), the
HE Research & Development Association (Torquay, UK), and as part of
the Higher Education Academy Seminar Series, `Higher Education
Students & Ethnicity: Lessons from Research'. Led by Professor
Stuart and Dr Lido, this workshop engaged high profile practitioners
(diversity specialists, senior management and human resources contacts)
with policy implications in the area of diversity and inclusion, spanning
multi-disciplinary and national and international contexts.
The main narrative of this body of research stems from the team's
promotion of `belonging' and `cultural capital "fit" measures', and
interventions for students. Interventions include Dr Lido's user- friendly
'Key Statistical Skills' workshops for non-traditional students, to help
overcome statistics anxiety in the social sciences, and Dr Solomon's book
chapter `spoonful of sugar' where culinary analogies in quantitative
social research methods teaching are used. In 2012, the University was
co-funded to host a flagship HEA conference for practitioners and
students, sharing best practice and revisiting WP policy in political and
economic climate for 2013. An online forum remains, hosting a library and
The research output of Lido and Solomon, informed by, and developed in
the context of the University's WP agenda, has impacted other UK HEIs
through dissemination of policy and practice. This is evidenced via the
Higher Education Empirical Research (HEER) database, HEA EvidenceNet,
BIS reports and `Improving the student experience' online
Sources to corroborate the impact
Peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters with UK and/ or
- Solomon. L. (2013). `Pre-Arrival' in Morgan, M. (Ed) Supporting
Student Diversity in Higher Education - a practical guide, Oxon:
- Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L. & May, S. (2012). `Choosing
a Student lifestyle?' Questions of taste, cultural capital and gaining
a graduate job. In Hinton-Smith, T. (Ed.) (2012) Issues in
Widening Participation (London: Palgrave).
- Stuart, M., Lido, C. & Morgan, M. (2011). Personal Stories -
How students' social and cultural life histories interact with the
field of higher education. International Journal of Lifelong
Education, 30:4 (Special Issue, Summer 2011).
- Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, M., Solomon, L. & May, S. (2011). The
impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student
experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation
populations. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12:3. (Third
- McMillan, L. & Solomon, L. (2008) 'A Spoonful of Sugar Helps
the Medicine Go Down: Using Culinary Analogies in Quantitative Social
Research Methods Teaching', in Crosling, G., Thomas, L., &
Heagney, M. Student Retention Programmes in Higher Education, London:
Organisations with named contacts of users/beneficiaries to
- University of Lincoln, Professor.
- University of Kingston, Learning and Teaching Coordinator/Student
- University of Kingston, Institutional Researcher, Academic Development
- Higher Education Academy, Academic Lead for Strategic Change and