Document Type

Working Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Conway, Ann (2009) Widening participation in higher education and the resultant diversity of learners: A review of government policies, the academy and market demands that may influence this trajectory. Paper submitted as partial fulfulment of the EdD at the University of Sheffield.


This paper will look at participation in higher education in Ireland and the current focus of encouraging students from non-traditional and underrepresented groups to understand the ‘why’ of the widening participation debate in higher education. It will then review the evolution of government policies in relation to higher education and in particular of widening access and participation, for example Bologna and Erasmus at EU level and the encouragement of mobility of students within the EU. The resultant shift and change in higher education policies to focus on widening participation has changed the traditional view of the academy which was once elitist in nature and has moved to a more pluralist perspective. The academy and its players will be reviewed in relation to the access and participation debate and how the academy is trying to deal with the increasing diverse student body to bring higher education into the ‘real world’. Finally the area of the market demand will be reviewed to understand how education and the markets have changed over the last number of years and why we as educators are now looking at the widening participation debate.