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No such thing as a free lunch: widening participation in English higher education for those on free school meals

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  • Nathaniel Pickering
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/11/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Issue number3
Volume21
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)57-80
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Government policy is committed to increasing the representation of students that come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds at selective universities in England. However, access and participation of this group remain stratified and unequal. Focusing on free school meals as a proxy for socio-economic disadvantage, this article will examine how successful the Government has been in influencing 25 of the most selective universities in England to change their widening participation policies in relation to free school meal students. Drawing on the Stephen J. Ball conceptualisation of policy as text and policy as discourse, a macro-level policies were enacted at a micro-level. Findings indicate that the Government has had some success at influencing some local practices of the sampled institutions. However, universities have also deployed strategies that are based on established and dominant discourses to maintain their elite and selective position in society.