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Louise Archer, Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University
The terminology of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ permeates governmental approaches to higher education and the Widening Participation agenda. This paper interrogates some of the assumptions that underpin popular notions of ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘equality’ - critically addressing issues and implications surrounding ‘diversity’ in terms of both students and higher education institutions.
The paper begins by outlining the government’s main HE agenda, as reflected in the vision of HE detailed in the 2003 White Paper (The Future of Higher Education) and the 2004 Higher Education Bill. It then moves on to challenge dominant conceptualisations of ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘equality’, reflecting upon the implications for widening participation. For example, issues are raised regarding what is meant by ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’- of whom, to where and with regard to what? How do different approaches to diversity impact on widening participation policy and practice? And what might be gained by distinguishing between equality of opportunity, equality of outcome or equality of participation? Arguments are illustrated with evidence from empirical research. The paper concludes by raising questions about the likely impact and success of existing approaches and suggests potential ways forward.