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.