Research in Post-Compulsory Education | VOL. 26

Enabling equality of access in higher education for underrepresented groups: a realist ‘small step’ approach to evaluating widening participation

Publication Date Jan 2, 2021


ABSTRACT This article presents the evaluation of a small-scale widening participation intervention delivered by a Post-92 university to further education students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The intervention aimed to provide high quality information, advice and guidance about higher education opportunities and benefits through four workshops, so that participants could increase their confidence and skills and make informed decisions about their future.A realist small steps approach to evaluation was applied to explore the effectiveness of the intervention and why it was successful. Activity based focus groups were employed to address the research questions into how participants acquired and internalised knowledge about higher education and how this led to change or action. The evaluation found that the effectiveness of the intervention was limited because of poor attendance at the workshops. It was also found to be more beneficial to students who were pursuing a higher education pathway, as they highly valued the access to ‘hot’ knowledge the programme provided. However, for some participants, decisions were restricted because of financial constraints. An updated theory of change is presented that includes new and updated enablers that will make the intervention more effective in the future.


Higher Education Access In Higher Education Higher Education Opportunities Widening Participation Small Step Small-scale Intervention Quality Guidance Quality Advice Access In Education Education Benefits

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No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. The conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretatio...

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