Fair Access Research: Learning Together

The BU Fair Access Research (FAR) project is an innovative project which seeks to make a difference to students by transforming practice through collaborative research.


We are co-creating research with students and practitioners (both professional and academic) as part of the university’s commitments to widening participation to higher education. We want to make a sustainable difference to students accessing, succeeding and progressing through university by undertaking co-creative research to transform practice.

Our approach to fair access research centres on learning together with students, colleagues from different academic and professional backgrounds and with stakeholders from across the higher education sector. By learning together we aim to:

  • support the student journey of people from underrepresented backgrounds
  • develop a transferable methodology, combining quantitative and qualitative methods
  • implement continued improvement  and social capital for organisational learning
  • establish targeted and reflexive dialogue inform and transform policy, practice and community engagement

Our research is concerned with process, with ways of thinking about and doing widening participation research to change behaviour within BU and beyond. Through learning together, our practice-led research will shape new understandings and changes in policy and practice for fair access to higher education. This Fair Access Research strategy aligns with Bournemouth University’s commitment to a fusion of research, education, and professional practice.

What we’re doing:

In addition to analysing data focusing on retention and attainment, some of the work we’re doing at the moment includes:

  • Working with colleagues from across the sector to develop new approaches to evaluating outreach
  • Undertaking research to enhance understanding of additional assessments in the admissions process
  • Co-creating research with two Undergraduate Research Assistants to explore student perceptions of disability
  • Finding out how academics understand their role in supporting students’ health and wellbeing
  • Working with Grow@BU to explore their impact on student’s lives.

The challenges facing widening participation are complex, educational disadvantage exists in a world where inequalities intersect and hierarchies are entrenched. We know that “without equity in education, inequality in society is reinforced and perpetuated”.

We can find ways to make participation in higher education more equitable if we harness our collective expertise and experiences.

We want to learn from and with you to support underrepresented and marginalised learners across the whole learning journey (from outreach through to graduation and beyond).

The Fair Access Research project is a catalyst to create a community of practice. If you are doing any work in this area, want to share ideas, test findings, evaluate interventions or embed social justice into your teaching and learning, get in touch! 

For more information about the Fair Access Research project and to share your ideas, please email the Principal Investigators, Dr Vanessa Heaslip (vheaslip@bournemouth.ac.uk) and Dr Clive Hunt (chunt@bournemouth.ac.uk).