Working Together for Widening Participation

invisible students

Thank you to everyone who came to the Fair Access Research workshop, Visible Students/Invisible Needs on Monday 11th July.

It was really powerful and humbling to hear from students about their experiences of university — the positive and the negative. Working with students and Students’ Unions is so important for those working to transform higher education because we can easily forget how policies, practices and research are lived and made liveable by students.

During the workshop we created a wall of words for widening participation – to capture the collective consciousness of the event. We discussed how widening participation is at work across the university and spoke about what we are all doing now and what we could do better.

Some of the things we spoke about touched upon the centrality of care and of person-centred approaches for widening participation. One thing that became apparent as we all spoke and listened to each other was the importance of relationships — or working and learning together — to transform higher education into more accessible and more just spaces for students and staff.

invisible students 2

At a time when there is so much uncertainty in the sector and across society, finding ways to work in solidarity and learn with each other seems even more important.

To explore in more detail how we as a sector are working together to collectively understand and learn about widening participation, we have designed a survey. We want to find out more about how widening participation is actually being learnt in the different institutions and organisations that make up the higher education sector.

organisational learning

By this we mean how the insights, knowledge, theories, data, expertise and experiences are being learnt individually and collectively within organisations.

Thinking about widening participation as a process of organisational learning asks the sector questions about knowledge retention, professional recognition and development and infrastructures for research development and dissemination, all of which is so vital for the sector to transform itself into a more equitable place.

The survey will take no more than 15 minutes to complete and will contribute to a much deeper understanding of the role that widening participation has across different organisations.

Please share this survey with colleagues.

Thank you to our students who shared their stories and to all of our colleagues for sharing their expertise and experiences with us.

For more information about the Fair Access Research programme as a whole, please email Dr Clive Hunt ( and Dr Vanessa Heaslip (


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