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Durham University

Durham University Evidence Centre for Education (DECE)

Widening participation

Widening participation in post-compulsory education, tackling social exclusion and lifelong learning have long been a concern of UK governments. At DECE we have experts in this field who have conducted a wide range of research relating to analysis of data on admissions to higher education, strategies to promote participation, fair access and social inclusion.

Current projects include:

Mapping and evaluating the use of contextual data in undergraduate admissions in Scotland

Evaluation of Children's University social action trial

Evaluation of Youth United Social Action Trial

Evaluating the use of contextual data in undergraduate admissions

Recent relevant publications include:

Boliver, V., S. Gorard & Siddiqui, N. (2019) Using contextualised admissions to widen access to higher education: A guide to the evidence base. DECE: ISBN 978-0-907552-20-8.

Siddiqui, N., Boliver, V. & Gorard, S. (2019). Reliability of Longitudinal Social Surveys of Access to Higher Education: The Case of Next Steps in England. Social Inclusion 7(1): 80-89.

Gorard, S., Boliver, V., Siddiqui, N.& Banerjee, P. (2019) Which are the most suitable contextual indicators for use in widening participation to HE?, Research Papers in Education, 34, 1, 99-129.


Boliver, V. (2018). Ethnic inequalities in admission to elite universities. In Dismantling Race in Higher Education: Racism, Whiteness and Decolonising the Academy. Arday, J. & Safia-Mirza, H. Palgrave MacMillan.

Boliver, V., Powell, M. & Moreira, T. (2018). Organisational Identity as a Barrier to Widening Access in Scottish Universities. Social Sciences 7(9): 151.

Dilnot, C. & Boliver, V. (2018). Admission to medicine and law at Russell Group universities: the impact of A-level subject choice. In Widening Participation in Higher Education: Towards a reflexive approach to research and evaluation. Hayton, A. & Stevenson, J. Trentham Books.

Gorard, S., Boliver, V. and Siddiqui, N. (2018) How can contextualised admissions widen participation?, pp.305-326 in Shah, M, and McKay, J, (Eds.) Achieving Equity and Academic Excellence in Higher Education: Global Perspectives in an Era of Widening Participation?, London: Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 978-3-319-78315-4.

Mateos-Gonzalez, J.L. & Boliver, V. (2018). Performance-based University Funding and the Drive towards ‘Institutional Meritocracy’ in Italy. British Journal of Sociology of Education.

Lessard-Phillips, L., Boliver, V., Pampaka, M. & Swain, D. (2018). Exploring ethnic differences in the post-university destinations of Russell Group graduates. Ethnicities 18(4): 496-517.

Younger, K., Gascoine, L., Menzies, V. & Torgerson, C. (2018). A systematic review of evidence on the effectiveness of interventions and strategies for widening participation in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education.


Boliver, V., Crawford, C., Powell, M. & Craige, W. (2017) Admissions in Context: The use of contextual information by leading universities.

Boliver, V., Gorard, S., Powell, M. & Moreira, T. (2017) Mapping and evaluating the use of contextual data in undergraduate admissions in Scotland.

Gorard, S. (2016) Does the use of contextual admissions help universities to widen participation?, Research Fortnight.

Gorard, S., Siddiqui, N. and Boliver, V. (2017) An analysis of school-based contextual indicators for possible use in widening participation, Higher Education Studies, 7, 2, 101-118.

Boliver, V., Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2017) A more radical approach to contextualised admissions, pp23-28 in Where next for widening participation and fair access?, Oxford: HEPI/Brightside HEPI Report 98.

Boliver, V., Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2017) How can we widen participation in higher education? The promise of contextualised admissions, pp.95-110 in Deem, R. and Eggins, H. (Eds.) The University as a Critical Institution, Boston: Sense Publishers, ISBN Paperback: 9789463511148.

Gorard, S., Boliver, V., Siddiqui, N., Banerjee, P. and Morris, R. (2017) Which are the most suitable contextual indicators for use in widening participation to HE?, Education Working Paper Series, Working Paper 1, ISBN 978-0-907552-12-3.

Gorard, S., Siddiqui, N. and Boliver, V. (2017) An analysis of school-based contextual indicators for possible use in widening participation, Education Working Paper Series, Working Paper 2, ISBN 978-0-907552-17-8.

Gorard, S., Siddiqui, N. and Boliver, V. (2017) An analysis of contextual and other indicators of HE students for possible use in widening participation, Education Working Paper Series, Working Paper 3, ISBN 978-0-907552-21-5.

Mawn, L., Oliver, E.J., Akhtar, N., Bambra, C., Torgerson, C., Bridle, C. & Stain, H.J. (2017). Are we failing young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs)? A systematic review and meta-analysis of re-engagement interventions. Systematic Reviews 6: 16.

Boliver, V. (2017). How meritocratic is admission to highly selective UK universities?. In Higher Education and Social Inequalities: University Admissions.


Hung, Y.-W. & Higgins, S. (2016). Learners’ use of communication strategies in text-based and video-based synchronous computer-mediated communication environments: opportunities for language learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning 29(5): 901-924.

Tymms, P. & Higgins, S. (2016). Judging Research Papers for Research Excellence. Studies in Higher Education.

Boliver, V., Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2016) Will the use of contextual indicators make UK HE admissions fairer?, Education Sciences, 5, 4.

Selwyn, N. and Gorard, S. (2016) Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource, The Internet and Higher Education, 28, January 2016, 28-34.

Boliver, V. (2016). Exploring ethnic inequalities in admission to Russell Group universities. Sociology 50(2): 247-266.