Institutional commitment to widening participation: mission, rhetoric and framing

Graham, Claire Louise (2010). Institutional commitment to widening participation: mission, rhetoric and framing. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis is based upon a case study of six higher education institutions (HEIs) and their ‘framing’ of commitment to widening participation. Using elements of Fairclough’s (1995) critical discourse analysis, the thesis analyses the discursive strategies that the HEIs used to position their widening participation work in marketing literature and open day settings, as well as via policy documents and statements made by staff. Bernstein’s (1990) notions of classification and framing are applied as a framework for understanding how widening participation work is presented as part of a ‘whole institution’ approach to marketing. The thesis argues that the discursive strategies of the pre-92 HEIs suggested a highly contingent approach to widening participation. Strong framing around standards and selectivity was coupled with weak framing of widening participation. The post-92 HEIs evidenced stronger framing of widening participation but this was positioned alongside a recruitment-oriented discourse of persuasion. Government policy appeared to have had a limited effect in terms of changing existing institutional cultures. It is recommended that the government enforce tighter regulation around widening participation work in HEIs; ensuring that widening participation is embedded into institutional structures and that marketing literature and open day settings reflect this more accessible ethos.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)


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