Narrowing Participation in Higher Education?: evidence from Access Agreements' content and discourse Dr Colin McCaig SRHE/UALL seminar 9th February 2015 University outreach activities and progression to higher education Access Agreements • Established by Higher Education (2004) Act • Agreements between institutions and Office for Fair Access (OFFA) • How additional fee income will be spent protecting access for poorest and other underrepresented groups • Where institutional policy on access and financial support are outlined and rationalised • OFFA and AAs have no influence on admissions to HE but do set targets for efforts to encourage applications • 2012 new AAs - more emphasis on benchmarks, on retention and success (employability) for post92s • Reflective and responsive to government policy HE policy context • 2009 end of long period of systemic growth • 2010 election of a Coalition government - cuts agenda • 2010/11 market orientated policies – higher fees (max now £9,000 pa) – Student Number Control 'high grades' policy – National Scholarship Programme • The 'student as consumer' model based on informed choice New student support arrangements • OFFA mandatory bursaries scrapped • Institutions free to target support • National Scholarship Programme added to the mix – allocated by student numbers, not by need – large award (£3k) but all in Year 1 and only £1k in cash bursary – institutions had to match fund - so can support more students OR same students more generously • NSP awards are to be "targeted at bright potential students from poor backgrounds" (BIS) Widening participation in the new regime • Fees almost trebled- how to protect access for the poorest? • Repayment scheme made more progressive • OFFA guidance - institutions should target support at brightest of the poor • How to identify the brightest of the poor? • Access agreements - targets, milestones, benchmarks and discourse Comparative content analysis of 20 access agreements: 2006 & 2012 • 10 recruiting universities (post92s) and 10 selecting universities (pre92s); • analysis repeated in 2012 to show change over time and between institution types • which underrepresented groups do institutions offer financial support to? • how much do they offer? • which age and social groups are the focus of outreach? • variations by type - and movement over time Findings from analysis • Engagement with different age groups via outreach (change 06-12) • Engagement with different underrepresented groups - outreach and transitional support, retention, curricula development (change 0612) • Financial support (change 06-12) • Distortion impact of National Scholarship Programme Age group engagement 2006 12 10 8 Pre-92s 6 Post 92s 4 2 0 primary secondary 16-18 16-19 Matures Age group engagement 2012 12 10 8 Pre-92s 6 Post 92s 4 2 0 primary secondary 16-18 16-19 Matures Age group engagement: Overall change 06-12 12 10 8 Pre06 Post06 6 Pre12 Post12 4 2 0 primary secondary 16-18 16-19 Matures Age group engagement: summary • Both pre and post-92 institutions engage with more age groups in 2012 than in 2006 • More emphasis on primary school age (especially among pre92s) • Less on 16-19 year olds • Post-92s acting more like pre-92s (reverse for matures) • Suggests both types now focussing more on high attainers (identify them early) Social group engagement variation by institution type 06-12 BME Asylum / Disable refugee d LAC lower SEC LPN Parents /carers WBL Total pre 06 9 2 7 0 8 6 6 3 41 post 06 6 1 3 2 7 5 6 7 37 pre 12 8 - 10 9 6 9 8 3 53 post 12 3 - 8 9 8 7 6 6 47 Social group engagement variation by institution type 06-12 12 10 8 pre 06 post 06 6 pre 12 post 12 4 2 0 BME Asylum refugee Disab LAC lower SEC LPN Parents/carers WBL Social group summary • Catch-up by pre-92s (LAC, LPN, parents/carers) • Benchmark effect? - post-92s generally overachieve against them • Overall decline in engagement with BME groups (some not underrepresented) • More focus on socio-economic indicators Financial support: NSP • Additional fee income (over the OFFA threshold fee, was £1k now £6k) • All have to sign up to National Scholarship Programme. National eligibility - RHI <£25k • awards of £3k, all in Y1 – bursary (max £1k) – fee waiver – services • Match funded element of NSP – can be used over all 3 years • Additional eligibility criteria if required (oversupply) NSP scheme elements 10 9 8 7 6 pre-92 5 post-92 4 3 2 1 0 Bursary Fee waiver Services B&F&S F&S B&S Match funded element How the money was spent - Variations • 5 pre92s doubled the value of award • 1 post92 doubled the value of the award • 5 post 92s doubled the allocation • 2 post92s more than doubled the allocation = pre92s targeting at the few, post92s supporting more of poorer cohort Typology of eligibility criteria by institution type 20 18 16 14 12 Post92 10 Pre92 8 6 4 2 0 Need Merit Course Local Additional financial support: other • Institutions can spend over and above NSP to support poorest students • 2006 AAs pre92s spent more in bursaries and scholarships that post92s – but on less recipients • 2012 AAs same pattern but even less support for poorest in post92s unless they were in receipt of NSP award Financial support: other • Old regime - all qualifying (RHI <£25k) received at least £300 a year (average bursary £1,625 for pre92s, £865 for post92s) plus scholarships for specified groups (AFS) • 2012 regime - 8 of the 10 pre92 agreements show that AFS is available to all students that qualify, with maximum support in the range of £2000-£5500 • Support for all that meet the RHI cut off has increased for all but two pre92s giving average net gain of £1125 per year over the previous system. • Among post-92s the picture is very different with none of the sample offering basic financial support for all students that qualify by RHI. Financial support - headlines • Relatively few poor students more heavily supported at pre92 institutions than under the previous bursary regime • NSP has distorted support spending at post92 institutions • Pre92s more likely to offer fee waivers than cash bursaries • Post92s more likely than pre92s to offer bursaries and discounts for services • Match funding - pre92s double value of award, post92s double allocation • Eligibility - post92s more likely use eligibility criteria as 40% of students qualify by RHI • Post92 eligibility focus mostly on need (19 schemes) but 5 (of 30) schemes reward merit • AFS post92 students are big losers Discourse analysis Discourse analysis • Fairclough (1993) discourse as a mode of action used as a market positioning device • Bernstein (2000) - classification - used here to differentiate institutional types (e.g. 'worldclass' universities) • Ball (1990) 'social appropriation' of discourses by institutions • Gibbs and Knapp (2002) 'choice sets' Post92 focus shift - from the institution to the individual Inst 2006/7 2012/13 post2 We are a ground-breaking and distinctive higher education institution, whose vision is • to combine academic rigour with vocational relevance; • to work in partnership with other providers and the public and private sectors, • to make a substantial contribution to meeting the higher level knowledge and skills needs of the [region] and beyond. The University’s mission is to ‘unlock the potential within individuals and organisations through the excellence and responsiveness of our teaching, research and student support’. The University is committed to part-time, vocational and professional education; widening participation and extending educational opportunities to mature students and other under-represented groups; and to the teaching of, and research in, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in particular. Post92 focus shift - from the institution to the individual Inst 2006/7 2012/13 post7 Access, progression, student achievement and employment are all central to the University’s raison d'être and have been for well over a century…. A teaching-led University with a strong commitment to applied research, the University today is seeking to build on its proud record of service … and on its traditional strengths in vocational and professional education [The] University has a history of supporting access to advanced education, which stretches back to its foundation. …. Today, our mission statement reflects that: We are about creating opportunity for our students and equipping them to become highly successful in their chosen field. Our focus is on the professions. Widening participation is achieved by delivering success for our students. We can help create the best possible opportunities for our students to succeed. Post92 focus shift - from the institution to the individual Inst post8 2006/7 2012/13 We have exciting plans for the next few years. Building on our current strengths, we aim to engage with our students and customers and to offer them the products, skills and opportunities they need to succeed. We recognise that this means that our academic provision will need to be market sensitive and that the location, time and methods of delivery will reflect and support the needs of our increasingly diverse and inclusive community. By this opening up of opportunities we will liberate, for the economy and for society, the talents and skills of thousands of graduates every year. The University is committed to ensure that students have access to an education which will be valid and relevant to them as individual learners. We recognise that a diverse range of students require diverse learning styles and support structures. …. the University makes the following core commitment to widening participation and diversity: ‘Offer a diverse range of learning opportunities that suit individual needs and are designed to attract a much wider social mix.’ …. We aim to offer an exciting and worthwhile student experience on courses which gives students: practical work experience opportunities during their course of study opportunities to gain the right tools to enter the world of work upon graduation. Post92 focus shift - from employment to 'the professions' Inst 2006/7 2012/13 post5 The University …. is a teaching and learning led university that places students’ needs first. We are proud of our record in widening participation to higher education with a highly socially inclusive student population. This is combined with high levels of student achievement and success in graduate employment. At the University … a key part of our mission is “to deliver an accessible and inspirational learning experience … and to engage fully with employers and the community”. Our “strap line” is “inspiring tomorrow's professionals”. To achieve this mission, and to live up to our brand promise, we seek to support every student through every stage of their personal “student journey”, from supporting their first decision to consider higher education as an option, through application, enrolment, their learning experience, engagement with professions, and trajectory into work and further study. Post92 focus shift - from diversity to employability Inst 2006/7 2012/13 Post3 The University uses the term ‘widening participation’ in its broadest sense and encompasses dimensions such as race, social class, age, gender, sexuality and disability. It also relates to the whole student experience of HE, ranging from pre-entry through to progression, achievement and employment. …. The University has a diverse student population. One of its shared values … is ‘respect for diversity amongst members and prospective members of its community’. We will ensure the accessibility of all our courses through a comprehensive programme of support that starts in local primary schools and extends to assisting our graduates into their chosen professional careers. …. The University …. has a long‐standing and well evidenced commitment to widening participation and fair access. Post92 focus shift- from access to retention and employability Inst 2006/7 2012/13 Post4 Widening Participation has been a leading mission for the University [...] for 15 years, reflected in an ongoing Strategy for Widening Participation which underpins the Corporate Plan, and is reviewed and revised annually. The University will maintain its commitment to delivering fair and facilitative access and progression arrangements as part of its overall commitment to widening participation. Activity relating to retention, achievement and employability already forms part of our holistic approach to widening participation, as detailed in the University’s Widening Participation Strategic Assessment (WPSA) Post92 focus shift - from regional to national Inst 2006/7 2012/13 post1 [The] University is proud of its record over more than 160 years of offering opportunities to participate in higher education to those who have traditionally been excluded. This central tenet of [our] Mission will continue to be of huge importance as opportunities are offered to students from low participation neighbourhoods in [the borough and wider region], those with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities As [the] University has developed its strategy for student recruitment to move from being a subregional provider to a national provider, it has, in keeping with its [mission] targeted …. schools in cities across England whose pupil intake reflects many of the widening participation target groups Post92 - challenges of the new regime: Inst post5 2006/7 2012/13 The University has performed well in terms of recruiting regionally and especially from low-income groups and local ethnic-minority communities. Despite sector-wide growth in these areas, further improvement has been achieved with the result that we continue to exceed the benchmarks. The scope for further improvement is now more limited. The change in University funding, in which the balance of the cost of studying has been largely shifted from the State to the graduate, may become a major challenge to widening participation and through it to increasing upward social mobility. ……. research also suggests that changes to the national funding model may also change the relative demand for particular programmes and specific institutions. In response we have reviewed our portfolio, and withdrawn degree programmes which our research suggests will not fare well in the new environment. Post92 summary • from the institution to the individual's learning opportunities; student experiences; student journeys • from accessing work to 'the professions' • from access and diversity to retention, success, employability • from widening access to upward social mobility • Challenges of the new regime - course closures Pre92 - from international to global Pre1 2006/7 2012/13 The University’s commitment to widening participation is enshrined within its mission statement. ‘We will continue to serve [the City and Region] region using our skills and knowledge and drawing on our international reputation to promote social and cultural well-being and to aid economic growth and regeneration. We will continue the tradition of making a university education available to the members of any community able to benefit from it.’ The University […] offers an inspirational student experience at a selective leading global University. We are proud of our strong outreach and retention record that has been built up over a long period of time, and which places us in the vanguard of the Russell Group. .... We intend to expand our flagship [Access to] scheme beyond the [region]; and are seeking to expand our [..] progressive programmes which work with Gifted and Talented widening participation students over the course of their secondary education. Pre92 - building up that track record pre2 2006/7 2012/13 The University […] has an ambitious Education Strategy, which aims to provide a world-class student educational experience.... the University is committed to having a student body that is diverse in terms of background and experience, with all the cultural and educational benefits that this brings. This commitment has been reflected in a longstanding and active programme of widening participation. The University’s first strategy for widening participation was published in 1999 The University […]’s Access Agreement is founded on a two-fold commitment to: - Sustained enhancement of the educational experience of our students - Widening participation in Higher Education in general and to [City] in particular …. The University […] has an ambitious Education Strategy, which aims to provide a worldclass student educational experience... the University […] is committed to having a student body that is diverse in terms of background and experience, with all the cultural and educational benefits that this brings. This commitment has been reflected in a longstanding and active programme of widening participation. The University’s first strategy for widening participation was published in 1999 Pre92 - building up that track record pre6 2006/7 2012/13 Objectives: The [University's] overwhelming objective when designing its new package of financial support was to maintain and, if possible, to encourage an increase in, the number of applications from good candidates from poorer backgrounds…. We aim to increase applications from state schools by five percentage points by 2009. It is worth underlining, however, that we will not increase the intake of students from such groups unless the applicants meet our highly competitive entry criteria [The University] is committed to widen access to higher education in general and to [university] in particular. ‘Engagement’ remains one of the strategic priorities of our five-year Strategic Plan and widening participation is one of the key tenets of our engagement policy. [The university] faces specific challenges relating to the suitability of A level choices ….. However, we are pleased with the progress made towards our benchmarks for state school, low socioeconomic and low participation neighbourhood students. We aim to build upon the success of recent years, by reaching more pre-university students from a wider cross section of society and continuing to recruit students from these underrepresented groups to [the university] Pre92 - the problem of squaring excellence with access Inst 2006/7 2012/13 pre3 It remains the University’s policy to admit UK students of the highest academic calibre and potential irrespective of financial or other non-academic considerations. However, as a leading international university, [this university] attracts high quality applicants from the rest of the EU and further afield. …. Entry to [this university] typically requires a minimum of three grade As in appropriate GCE A Level subjects (or their equivalent). There is a large pool of qualified applicants and competition is rigorous: in 2003, only 28% of c.11,000 U.K. applicants could be accepted. The standard A-level offer for entry to [this university] is currently advertised as A*AA. There is a large pool of qualified applicants and competition is rigorous: in 2009-10, only 24% of c.13,000 applicants from UK schools and colleges could be accepted, and of those accepted over 93% exceeded the standard offer (the average number of A*s achieved by entrants was 2.5). Pre92 focus - quality must be maintained Inst 2006/7 2012/13 pre3 We are also mindful of the implications of the difficulties being experienced by the state sector in student take up and teaching provision in a number of subjects which are critical for entry into many of our courses, including modern languages, mathematics and physical science subjects. We are also mindful of the implications of the difficulties being experienced by the state sector in student take-up and teaching provision in a number of subjects that are critical for entry into many of our courses, including modern languages, mathematics and physical science subjects. Additionally and as noted by the Russell Group, a lower proportion of state-sector students overall achieve top grades compared with those in the independent sector, and state sector students are less likely to apply to selective universities. Pre92 - the regional role becomes a 'civic virtue' Inst pre8 2006/7 2012/13 The University is particularly concerned to contribute to educational excellence in the region The University […] has a long tradition of raising aspiration and supporting achievement by working with young people, teachers, schools and colleges across [the City and Region] and beyond Inst pre7 2006/7 2012/13 (no statement on regional focus) Our University Mission is to be a world-class research-intensive university ... and to play a leading role in the economic, social and cultural development of the [Region]. As a world-class civic university, our aim is to marry excellence with relevance and to respond to the needs and demands of civil society. We see our activities in WP and fair access as a natural consequence of our aims and values. ...... As a civic university which engages fully with our community, the city and the region, we have been working for the past 18 years with schools and colleges in the [region] to promote progression, participation and flexible access. More civic virtue Inst Pre9 2006/7 2012/13 The University […] has a long-standing commitment to widening participation and fair access, not only to its own programmes of study, but also to the HE experience in general. The University will: contribute to the [regional] Aimhigher initiative to improve the performance of pupils at GCSE level … The University [and a local post92 university] also work closely as part of the [regional] Aimhigher partnership, offering complementary activities. The two universities are working towards the presentation of co-ordinated guidance to local schools and colleges about the range of outreach activities offered across the region from both institutions The University […] has a long-standing commitment to widening participation and fair access, not only to its own programmes of study, but also to higher education in general. .... This strongly reflects the ... foundation on which the University was built: The University […] has roots going back …. and was founded formally …. via penny donations from the local citizens. The University is proud of its origins and continues to value the role it has come to play in its city and region. The University continues to play a key role within the city and the region and has a strong sense of civic responsibility. Discourse shifting? Pre-1992s Pre 2006 Pre 2012 Quality, excellence, inviolability of entry requirements Difficulties of improving access and maintaining quality Robbins principle (all those who can benefit should have access); Regional role, partnerships (Aimhigher) Civic virtue and responsibility (leadership) International reputation; National and international recruitment Global excellence; world league table rankings Little interest in access - no track record Track record of access measures; Benchmarking performance against similar institutions Discourse shifts? Post-1992s Post 2006 Post 2012 Institution focussed Individualised focus on how good they are for the 'student as consumer' Diversity of student body an aim and celebrated; Welcoming and student friendly Retention and success are the main focus of access expenditure Flexible Vocational provision; Ties to the local labour market Employability, links to 'the professions' Local and Regional focus Regional and National focus for recruitment Bursaries for all; Outreach focussed on raising aspirations for all Merit aid (financial support for those with higher ability) merit and subject specific targeted outreach Summary • Content analysis suggests some convergence in outreach engagement over time • This convergence is closer to original Pre92 position targeting high attainers • Poorer students at Post92s are less well supported financially under new regime • Discourse analysis supports this - Post92s have made the more radical departures – retention and success; employability; broadening geographical recruitment • Pre92s less movement – enhanced quality; civic leadership role • Both HEI types agree on the challenge of widening participation in the new climate Discussion: how is marketisation playing out? • Potential impact of expanding student places on these trends... • Are HEIs in general abandoning diversity, vocationalism, work-based learning to FE and alternative providers? • Is the English HE system becoming more/less differentiated? • What does equity mean in a less diverse system?