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     Widening Participation in HE Project:

Non-participation in HE: Decision - making as an embedded social practice (2006 - 2007)

This project has now completed. Major outputs include:


Alison Fuller (University of Southampton)
Martin Dyke (University of Southampton)
Nick Foskett (University of Southampton)
Ros Foskett (University of Southampton)
Sue Heath (University of Southampton)
Brenda Johnston (University of Southampton)
Felix Maringe (University of Southampton)
Patricia Rice (University of Southampton)
John Taylor (University of Southampton)


Project Summary

This study examined the extent to which HE is conceived as 'within the bounds of the possible' for non-participants and explored how attitudes to HE and decisions about non-participation are embedded within 'networks of intimacy' consisting of family members and close friends. It hypothesised that such networks provide a critical context within which individuals' thinking about participation is embedded. The research involved two overlapping and interacting parts: stage one (desk work) drew on existing large-scale survey data to develop a macro-level account of (non-)participation in the general population and a critique of the extant literature on educational decision-making. The implications of the emerging issues were explored in the qualitative study (stage two).This involved case studies of sixteen networks of intimacy. We identified non-participating adults at different stages in the life-course to provide 'entry points' to each network. Focusing on non-participants helped to generate evidence from networks with a spectrum of attitudes to and experience of HE, as well as from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Each case study was conducted in two parts: an initial structured interview with each 'entry point' individual to determine educational and employment histories, household and family composition, and details of their self-defined network of intimacy, followed by semi-structured interviews with each of these individuals plus five or six members of their network who were identified as sources of influence in the decision-making process. The focus at the macro and micro levels on non-participants and on adults at various stages in the life-course make this research distinctive, as existing research has tended to focus on non-traditional participants, and applicants and on adults below the age of 30.



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