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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Julie Rattray

Owen, C., Eggins, H., Gordon, G., Land, R. & Rattray, J. (2013). Is Access to University a Matter of Quality? UK and European Experiences of Widening Participation. Journal of the European Higher Education Area 4: 17-32.

Author(s) from Durham


Widening participation and the related issue of social mobility are re-emerging as crucial, complex and pressing priorities in terms of the governance and the social and economic effectiveness of higher education in the regions of Europe. Concern about barriers to entry to higher education has been debated across Europe since at least the 1960s, yet there is still disagreement about the extent to which universities should take responsibility for the social effects of access policies and provision. Despite the unifying effects of the Bologna Process, the meaning and status of widening participation action across Europe remain highly differentiated. Enhanced access in terms of numbers does not necessarily correlate with equality of opportunity and planned national responses to access concerns remain under-developed in many member states. This article compares data from the UK with that from six other EU countries: Czech Republic, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia collected as part of the IBAR (Identifying Barriers in Promoting European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance at Institutional Level) Project. We compare the current status of the UK’s national widening participation agenda with findings from the other countries participating in the IBAR project and ask if European standards for quality assurance can, or should, accommodate the very different systems and philosophies which underpin national and institutional approaches to higher education participation.