Social inequalities in higher education: why and how national institutional factors matter

November 2015

The question of how to widen access to higher education has been given unprecedented public prominence in Scotland following the launch of the Scottish Government Commission on Widening Access in 2015, chaired by Dame Ruth Silver. We were very pleased that Dame Ruth opened this AQMeN event, which brought international comparative research on the role of institutional factors for widening access to the debate– looking at Scottish evidence in comparison with the rest of the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA.

There was a particular focus on the effects of differentiation among types of higher education, and on the effects of the curriculum at school and higher education institutions, exploring whether particular types of institution or particular types of curriculum aid or hinder equality of opportunity. Our expert speakers gave an overview of their research and the wider policy debate, followed by small-group discussions which will focus on the implications of the research results for policy and practice.

The event  featured a keynote lecture from Professor Adam Gamoran ( President of the William T. Grant Foundation in New York City and John D. MacArthur Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison). Professor Gamoran spoke about the state of educational inequality in the 21st century, focusing on recent increases in the USA and elsewhere and assessing potential responses to these trends.

The audience for this event included policy makers and analysts, practitioners from the school and higher education sectors, student representatives, local authority representatives, third sector organisations and journalists with an interest in higher education.

This event tookplace as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, which ran from 7-14th November 2015.

You can view presentations and interviews with the speakers from this event via the AQMeN YouTube channel.

You can also view the summary report from this event here.