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Are university widening participation activities just-in-time or just-out-of-time? Exploring the (mis)alignment between the timing of widening participation activities and university decision-making among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds


When is the best time to engage high school students in widening participation (WP) activities? With qualitative data from 46 university students at six Australian universities who are from low socioeconomic status (LSES) backgrounds, this study explored WP’s timeliness. It was found that a) the timing of the decision to go to university can occur at any point in compulsory schooling; b) LSES students experienced the bulk of WP in senior high school, being the years after they have selected the university stream; c) students in the university stream were exposed to WP activities while those in the non-university stream were excluded; and d) participants recommended that WP should begin earlier and be concentrated in the lead up to the forced streaming decision that occurs in Year 10. Overall, earlier WP exposure that is synchronised with high school streaming processes would optimise WP activities aimed at increasing LSES university participation.

Published: 2019-03-07
Pages:47 to 58

Author Biographies

University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia Australia

Dr Maria Raciti is an Associate Professor in Marketing who uses marketing tools and techniques for the greater good—being the active pursuit of equity, social justice and betterment. Dr Raciti is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and was the 2018 Research Fellow with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. Maria is passionate about Widening Participation in Australian tertiary education and has worked on several large-scale projects in this area.

University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia Australia

Mr Joshua Dale is a Research Assistant at the University of the Sunshine Coast and has worked on social marketing projects related to the widening of participation in Australian higher education. Joshua is currently undertaking an Honours degree having graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795