Fair Access Research – an update

Learning together to promote opportunity, equality and achievement

Bournemouth University’s pioneering Fair Access Research is a practice-led, collaborative research project which aims to develop and expand knowledge and expertise in the field fair access to higher education.

This large collaborative research study is being led by Dr Vanessa Heaslip and Dr Clive Hunt and forms part of the research being undertaken in the Centre for Excellence in Learning.

The Fair Access Research project seeks to understand more fully, the complex intersections that are at play when it comes to participation in higher education, and to develop ways to enhance positive student experiences.

Underpinned by an ethos of inclusive education, a commitment to student engagement and practice-led research, our Fair Access Research team will learn from the expertise and experiences of students and colleagues to understand what issues arise across the student journey for disadvantaged and marginalised learners.

We are undertaking research in the areas of admissions and enrolment, attainment, retention and student experiences, as well as developing innovative ways of doing research and evaluation in widening participation.

Student experiences:

One of our key areas of focus lies in understanding how students conceive of their experience and to analyse how students from different backgrounds experience being a student at BU differently. To find this out, we are going to use an institutional-wide survey that’s been developed in partnership with SUBU and pilot tested over the summer.

Key findings from the pilot study include:

  • Factors influencing first in family to attend university are different from those in second or subsequent generation. Students who are first in family prioritised getting a good job whereas second generation students prioritised the more social side of higher education
  • Whilst differences in attainment were small, first generation students achieved on average higher degree outcomes
  • When we compared the experience of first and second generation students at BU, a stark difference in the key influencers for participation at university could be seen
  • It is not yet known whether the key influence of parents experienced by second generation students follows through to increased external, emotional and financial support during university.

Findings from the pilot phase have been submitted to Studies in Higher Education and a paper based on the development of the questionnaire has been submitted to the international Open University Widening Participation biennial conference. Findings from the pilot have also been shared on the British Education Research Association blog.

At the heart of our Fair Access Research project is an awareness that it is through learning together – as students, practitioners, policy makers, academics and wider communities – that we can best achieve an HE culture that promotes opportunity, equality and achievement for all students. With this in mind we are always keen to hear from colleagues and develop collaborative ways of working. Some areas interest include:

  • Developing effective and replicable models of WP evaluation and research
  • Understanding the pedagogical implications of WP
  • Surveying staff involved with admissions and enrolment
  • Understanding staff perceptions’ of student support

If you want to know more about the project as a whole or any area of the research, feel free to email awardrop@bournemouth.ac.uk