Widening access or narrowing student choice? the re-emergence of elitism in the UK higher education system

Steve Talbot, James Johnston, Alan Reeves

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Higher education systems in many parts of the world have struggled to reconcile falling state support with widening access and increasing participation of previously excluded groups. Evidence from the UK higher education system suggests that this tension has led to the re-emergence of a bifurcation of the education system along social class lines. The paper explores the experience of the different categories of
UK-university as they manage the changed socio-economic environment in which they operate. Contrary to the aims of much EU policy and the various structural changes introduced within the higher education sector since the 1960s, lessons from the UK experience suggest that a form of elitism has re-emerged in the provision of
certain subjects. We show how a combination of market forces, government policy and other developments in the UK higher education landscape may lead to the withdrawal of the key subjects for many vulnerable groups. We look at economics provision across the UK to show how a silent process of differentiation and stratification may take place and that this may be to the detriment of national policies
on social inclusion in higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Asian Conference on Sustainability, Energy and the Environment 2013
Subtitle of host publicationOfficial Conference Proceedings
PublisherThe International Academic Forum
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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