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About this book

This book is the first systematic attempt to examine one of the biggest challenges facing universities and society in the 21st century: how do we create opportunities to allow people from all social backgrounds to benefit from higher education? It examines how policymakers, higher education institutions and civil society organisations are meeting this challenge across the globe. Each chapter focuses on one of 12 countries, including the economically powerful US and Germany, developing nations from Africa and South America and the new higher education 'superpowers' of China and India.

Access to Higher Education shows that across these different nations inequalities in higher education participation are common, but their nature differs. It argues for a new, 'nationhood' based approach to understanding why these differences exist.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

It appears that rising participation in post-secondary education is unlikely to abate at the global level in forthcoming decades. It is estimated that 260 million students will be in post-secondary education across the world by 2025 (OECD, 2011). But who will these students be? Although there have been huge efforts in recent years to increase participation in primary education across the world for those from all social backgrounds (it was one the United Nations Millennium Development Goals up to 2015 (United Nations, 2000), it is less clear that efforts are being made to do this at the post-secondary level. However, increasing primary and secondary participation, without addressing participation at the post-secondary level, is akin to what has recently been described as building a ‘pyramid without a roof’ (Kirkland, 2015). The impact of universal primary or secondary education is limited unless it comes with a commitment to extending access to education across all levels. Moreover, many countries are at close to universal levels in primary and increasingly secondary education. It is legitimate to claim then that the truly global educational challenge in the twenty-first century is not access at the primary or even secondary level, but at the post-secondary level.
Graeme Atherton

2. Canada – Access at the Crossroads

Efforts to improve access, participation and attainment in higher education (HE) in Canada have been ongoing for decades. They span both the elementary and secondary levels of the school system, include both national and provincial policies/programmes and work at the national, provincial and community levels. These policies and programs have been designed for Canada’s highly diverse population. In the most current census, Canadians reported more than 200 ethnic origins and 200 first languages (Statistics Canada, 2011). This population includes groups and individuals that face a range of challenges in their efforts to access post-secondary studies and achieve success at the post-secondary level. These challenges consist of interacting barriers that may be academic, cultural/ethnic, financial, information-based and social in nature. This chapter looks at who participates in HE in Canada, who is under-represented and how the Canadian HE system is structured. It then explores how one province has managed to extend access to different groups, before outlining some of the challenges Canada faces going forward in the area of access to HE.
Diana Wickham

3. Marching in the Rain: The TRIO Programme and the Civil Rights Legacy in the United States

The late 1950s and the early 1960s witnessed a shift of paradigm by educational practitioners and policymakers. The nation started questioning the wisdom of educating a few gifted students at the expense of the majority. Was the nation better off by doing this? Or was the nation denying itself the greater benefits to society by failing to educate a large number of students who would be the engine for a prosperous nation? The realization of this huge untapped human capital began to take shape. This shift in paradigm became the platform for the discourse on access for the under-represented, low-income and first-generation college students in HE. The nation started to pay attention to those Americans who were denied access to HE. These were, and continue to be, the low-income and firstgeneration college students. They represent the American national tapestry: They are white, African-American, Latino, Asian, Alaskan, Hawaiian Native and Native American. They are America.
Ngondi Kamatuka

4. Access and Retention in Higher Education in Colombia: The Case of the Children’s University EAFIT

This chapter offers a detailed analysis of the attempts one university has made to extend access to higher education (HE) through a comprehensive and structured programme of pre-HE support: the Children’s University. In Colombia, education is defined as a rocess of continual formation provided in approved education centres, with the primary objective of achieving the integral development of students. This education, defined as formal, is offered in both public and private (referred to in Colombia as ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’, respectively) facilities and is divided into four levels: preschool, elementary, middle and higher. In addition, it is mandatory that the population participate in formal educational processes between the ages of 5 and 15 years, and it is the duty of the state, society and the family to ensure quality and promote access.
Isabel Cristina Montes Gutiérrez, Ana Cristina Abad

5. Changing the Mindset: How Germany Is Trying to Combine Access and Equity

The European HE system has been a target of a number of reform initiatives, mainly attributed to the Bologna Declaration in 1999 and the Lisbon Agenda in 2000. Both of these policy initiatives emphasized the modernization of European HE. While the Bologna declaration stressed structural reforms at the start (HRK, 2014a), the Lisbon Agenda focused on supporting growth and jobs. These issues now coincide in the Bologna and the European Union policy statements (European Commission, 2011), especially following the economic crisis of 2008. Improving the quality of education and widening access to education are seen as central in attaining successful economic and societal outcomes (European Commission, 2010). Simultaneously, creating more inclusive HE according to the so-called social dimension of European HE is also perceived as a high priority (European Commission and Eurydice, 2011). Over the last two decades, HE participation has expanded rapidly in Europe, yet inclusive access to HE remains a major policy challenge. Scholars too have paid increasing attention to the relationship between different education systems and the development of inequalities in access to HE (Mayer, Mueller and Pollack, 2003; Arum, Gamoran and Shavit, 2007; Reimer and Pollak, 2010). They show that the expansion of HE results in improved access for all groups; however, the relative advantage of privileged groups remains, especially with respect to the types of institution attended and fields of study (Arum et al., 2007).
Julia Mergner, Shweta Mishra, Dominic Orr

6. Extending Equity in Higher Education in an Equitable Society: The Finnish Dilemma

Education systems are a product of the unique character of national decision and policymaking. The national education policy establishes the main goals and priorities pursued by the government in matters of education – at the sector and sub-sector levels – and focuses on specific aspects such as access, quality and teachers, or to a given issue or need. An education policy strategy specifies how the policy goals are to be achieved. An education policy plan defines the targets, activities to be implemented and the timeline, responsibilities and resources needed to realize the policy and strategy (UNESCO, 2013). Although policymakers may attempt to steer and manipulate the education system, often as an entity in itself, the effectiveness of education is determined by wider social structures. Such structures are preconditions for agency and can be seen as a combination of such factors as social class; castes; ethnic, linguistic and religious division; and socially deprived, marginalized and vulnerable populations. These social groups often display different attitudes and values towards the utility of education, its priorities and the way in which it is delivered. This is often the main dilemma in many countries: the value of education, and in particular the value of higher education (HE), is not always so obvious.
Ari Tarkiainen

7. The United Kingdom: The Access-to-Higher-Education Nation?

The issue of who goes to higher education (HE) is, as in most chapters in this book, of relatively recent concern to most HE institutions and policymakers in the United Kingdom. However, the nature of the concern reflects far more long-standing issues. How inequalities in access to HE are addressed in the United Kingdom in recent years have come even more to reflect these historical differences between the four nations that constitute the union. The policies and practices adopted across the four nations increasingly reflect how the nations themselves are (re)asserting their own individual identities. This chapter explores the evolution of widening access work in the four different nations of the United Kingdom. It looks at how social class pervades access work across the four countries but interacts with particular social and political characteristics so that where access to HE is concerned, it only makes partial sense to talk about the United Kingdom here. It argues that each nation is going in its own way where access to HE is concerned.
Graeme Atherton

8. Access to Post-secondary Education in Malaysia: Realities and Aspirations

Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1959 and has made huge strides over the past few decades in increasing the participation of its population in post-secondary education. From a benchmark in 1970, when close to 50 per cent of the population lived in poverty (Symaco, 2010: 267), the participation rate has continued to increase significantly; the gross enrolment higher education (HE) ratio was 38 per cent in 2009, having risen from 32 per cent in 1985 and from 2 per cent in 1965 (Tham, 2011). The 2009 level is approaching the Malaysian government’s goal, set in 2010 and to be achieved by 2020, whereby 40 per cent of the relevant population group will be enrolled in post-secondary education (Tham, 2011). In Malaysia, postsecondary education normally refers to post–grade 11 programmes.
Glenda Crosling, Mien Wee Cheng, Ruma Lopes

9. Expanding Higher Education in India: The Challenge for Equity

India has a vast higher education (HE) system, in terms of both students and institutions, and there are ambitions to greatly expand it further. However, it is one riven by inequality which reflects a society that, although it has aspirations to become one of the leading economic nations of the twenty-first century, is also grappling with social structures with their origins in feudal eras. India is one of the largest HE systems across the world, second only to China in terms of absolute numbers, with over 25 million student enrolments (including open and distance learning), a GER of around 19 per cent (for age group of 18–23) and an anticipated increase in capacity of 10 million seats by 2020 (Planning Commission, 2012). The Indian HE system comprises (as of 2011) 645 degree-awarding institutions (DAIs), 33,023 colleges affiliated to 174 universities, 43 central universities, 289 state universities, 94 state private universities and over 12,000 diploma-granting institutions. Although India has such a large system, only a fraction of students who enrol in grade 1 are able to complete their schooling and participate in any kind of tertiary or post-secondary HE.
Manasi Thapliyal Navani

10. National Access Policies for Higher Education in China: Creating Equal Opportunities in Education

‘Knowledge changes your destiny, and learning leads to your future success.’ This is a proverb that everyone knows and practices in China. With a long history of Confucian culture, China is a country that values education. It is China’s national policy to prioritize the development of education, and in the era of mass higher education (HE), it becomes the wish of every young man and woman to receive HE. Since the early twenty-first century, China has had the biggest HE system in the world, with more than 34.6 million of students in 2788 colleges and universities in 2013 (MoE, 2014). As a centralized country, China implements a unified examination and enrolment policy in all of its 34 provincial-level administrative units except Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, which have their own policies because of historical reasons. But at different levels of HE, the examination and enrolment policies are also different. In keeping with the other case study countries in this book, this chapter mainly discusses the examination and enrolment policies of undergraduate and short-cycle programmes, focusing on national policies to promote the participation in HE of the ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘under-represented’ groups.
Baocun Liu, Yang Su

11. Access to Higher Education in South Africa: Addressing the Myths

In this context, the term ‘access’ is defined as extending opportunities for those who were previously excluded from higher education (HE). However, increasing access does not ultimately make the system ’fair’. The access debate thus shows two faces: invitation and exclusion. It also raises the question of cost, debates about which are not new to HE. These questions remain a challenge for both developed and developing countries. Governments globally have developed different strategies to ensure that keen and capable but financially disadvantaged students are not hindered from enjoying HE. In this, South Africa is no exception. However, access is not an end in itself, and a distinction should be made between formal and epistemological access. Formal access concerns registration, including fulfilling entry requirements, determining student fees and accessing financial resources. Once this has been completed, the student will need to be engaged in the academic programme for which he or she has registered. This initiation into the discourses and practices of the discipline is termed ‘epistemological access’. A useful concept to describe the essential nature of access, it was coined by Rollnick (2010), citing Morrow’s (1994) work on epistemological access, which described the relationship of such access to the culture of an institution.
Ncedikaya Magopeni, Lullu Tshiwula

12. Making Commitment Concrete: Policy and Practice in Access to HE in Ghana

In this chapter, we examine the challenges facing the sector in its drive to increase access The gross enrolment ratio (GER) for higher education (HE) in Ghana is currently around 12 per cent (UNESCO, 2014). This is far below the GER for advanced countries. Since the 2000s, there has been a big drive to increase enrolment in HE in Ghana. The National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), the body charged with advising on the development of tertiary education (which includes HE) in Ghana, has set a target GER of 25 per cent for the sector (NCTE, 2013). It appears also that in the midst of the drive towards increasing total enrolments, there have also been concerns about giving equal opportunities for under-represented groups. Such groups include older, mature student entrants as well as those who would otherwise not be able to afford to enter HE. In addition, the issues of rurality, gender inequality and the quality of HE offered loom large in Ghana, and these issues are explored in detail here.
Joseph Budu

13. Evolution or Revolution: The Three Ages of Access in Australia

The current student equity framework for higher education (HE) in Australia was established in 2009 under the previous Australian government. Located in a ‘social inclusion’ framework, it emphasizes the responsibility of institutions to contribute to social well-being, but also expresses a strong economic purpose for broadening participation – to ensure the nation has the high-level skills it needs to remain globally competitive. The framework sets a target of 40 per cent of 25- to 34-years-olds to have a bachelor’s degree by 2025, noting that it is not possible to achieve this without altering the social composition of the student body. This requires increased participation among those groups currently under-represented in the HE system, identified as people from regional and remote areas, Indigenous students and students from low socio-economic backgrounds (the bottom quartile of income-earning households).
Margaret Heagney, Fran Ferrier

14. Conclusions: The Age of Access

The case studies in this volume illustrate that who participates in HE is not a peripheral issue for HE itself, nor for the individual countries examined. It is part of how these countries understand themselves in the twenty-first century. The rest of the chapter unpicks this relationship between access and national identity, focusing on four themes emerging from the case studies in this book. It will be argued that a nuanced, holistic and connected discourse which locates equity within a broader set of challenges facing countries themselves and HE systems within/across them is required. What Clancy describes as the legitimized categories for access to HE differ across countries. Nor are they static. They appear to be ones that evolve and are shaped by wider socio-economic forces. The approaches (and commitment) of policymakers and practitioners to inequalities in access also contrast across countries and continents. But these differences are not ones that can be easily mapped against levels of economic development. Who provides the HE that will allow access to be expanded is clearly a pressing issue for those countries who are attempting to grow their systems – in Asia and Africa especially. However, this is not an issue confined to this part of the world. We see in North America and Europe, as well, the entrance of new kinds of provider into the system, providing challenges to how the development of established systems can be done in an equitable way. The chapter concludes by developing an approach to understanding access and equity in HE in the international context based around the concept of nationhood.
Graeme Atherton
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