Widening participation in Higher Education Programmes – identifying barriers and opportunities for students from lower educational backgrunds

  • Thomsen, Jens Peter (Project participant)
  • Munk, Martin D. (Project participant)

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    This project addresses the problem of widening participation in Higher Education (HE) by looking at the social distribution of HE students from a relatively new perspective. While most studies focus on social mobility and access to HE in general (the vertical perspective), this project emphasizes the unequal distribution of students between specific HE programmes (the horizontal perspective). Given that social selection varies from programme to programme, it is argued that it is insufficient to address the problem of negative social inheritance in HE without distinguishing between different programmes at various institutions. Based on a theoretical approach that combines socio-cultural and rational understandings of individuals' choices, it is hypothesized that: 1. The socially unequal distribution of students in HE programmes is based on differences in individual characteristics in terms of motivational, social and cultural factors. 2. The socially unequal distribution of students in HE programmes is explained by a crucial correspondence between individual dispositions and the characteristics of different HE programmes. Applying a mixed methods approach that exploits data from interviews, surveys and population registers will make it possible to identify reasons for choosing or not choosing a specific HE programme, such as educational dispositions, judgements, expectations, aspirations, students' perception of the institutional culture and social background. These findings will support the ambition of strategically targeting negative social inheritance by focusing on barriers that students from lower educational backgrounds face when entering HE.
    Effective start/end date31/08/200931/08/2011


    • Det Strategiske Forskningsråd