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November 2002/48
Good practice
Guidance for senior managers and practitioners

This report is for information

Successful student diversity

Case studies of practice in learning and teaching and widening participation

This document provides examples of practice to improve planning at a school or departmental level in widening participation (including disability) and learning and teaching. It is not prescriptive, but identifies common principles that institutions can adapt to their own circumstances, to help them recruit and support a diverse range of students.

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges
Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Of interest to those responsible for: Strategic planning, Widening participation, Learning and teaching
Reference: 2002/48
Publication date: November 2002
Enquiries to: Christine Fraser
tel 0117 931 7467

Table of contents and executive summary (read on-line)

List of case studies (read on-line)


[ MS Word 176K | Zipped Word 67K | Adobe PDF 84K | Zipped PDF 71K ]

The case studies are also available to download


Executive summary

This document

Themes from practice
Drivers for change
The students
Planning for lifelong learning

Annex A: Steering group

List of abbreviations

Executive summary


1.    This document provides examples of practice, and identifies common principles, to improve strategic planning at a school or departmental level in widening participation and associated learning, teaching and assessment. It responds to requests from higher education institutions (HEIs) for guidance on good practice to inform decision making and planning at these levels.

Key points

2.    The guide has been developed with the help of a steering group drawn from higher education (see Annex A) . It is based on 23 case studies in HEIs, and complements previous guidance on developing and implementing strategies for widening participation (HEFCE 01/36) and for learning and teaching (HEFCE 01/37).

3.    We use the term 'widening participation' to denote activities to recruit students from the groups that higher education institutions have identified as under-represented, and then to ensure their success. These groups may include disabled people, either as a group in their own right or as students who are both disabled and/or belong to another under-represented group.

4.    Two external factors are having a major influence on the supply and demand of higher education applicants and students. The first is government policy, with targets to widen participation in higher education to 50 per cent of 18-30 year-olds by 2010. The second is recent legislation to ensure equality of opportunities and provision for people with disabilities, and those from ethnic minorities. The case studies illustrate how HEIs are reviewing their access and recruitment policies and procedures to respond to these external drivers.

5.    Probably the greatest change is in the support that institutions expect to provide, not just at the beginning of a programme but throughout a student's career, to encourage student retention. Examples include drop-in centres, extra academic and personal tutoring, personal development plans, and various kinds of e-learning.

6.    What emerges clearly from the case studies is how adjusting methods of learning, teaching and assessment to meet the needs of a very wide range of students - including mature students and disabled students - in practice benefits all students.

7.    These changes require a culture shift in many departments, and a strategic approach to improve services for students. As the case studies show, new initiatives usually require enthusiasts or 'champions' to persuade colleagues to adapt their strategies at departmental and institutional level.

8.    Departments are resourced in different ways, and institutions provide varying levels of central support in terms of advice, personnel and facilities to support the increasingly diverse needs of students. Staff development programmes figure largely in the case studies and are an essential factor in successful widening participation strategies. Widening participation strategies are fairly new in some institutions, so evaluation of their effectiveness is patchy, but there are helpful examples of institutional support for monitoring and evaluation.


9.    This document is for guidance and information. It is not prescriptive, but provides examples that institutions can draw on in their work, to help them recruit and support a diverse range of students. Support for institutions is available through Action on Access, the National Co-ordination Team for the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund (TQEF) and the National Disability Team. The work on good practice guidance will be carried forward by the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) subject centres.