Widening Particaption

Widening participation is a part of educational policy which attempts to increase the number of people entering into higher education and also increase the portion of people who come from under-represented groups including those from lower income families, people with disabilities and some ethnic minorities.

In the context of my teaching I find the application of this policy interesting. I have often been involved with the interview process for applicants for some of the courses that I teach for both BA and FDA level. We often interview students who may not of studied A-levels and then gone onto art foundation and have applied directly from a BTEC or equivalent qualification. In many of these case the student come from lower income backgrounds. Often these students may show potential but they may be deemed not ready to enter a BA, so may be offered such cases they may be offered a place on a FDA degree that often have a more practical slant.

This means that often the social mix on many of the BA is promontory White middle class European and the emerging upper middle classes from South East Asia. In the instances of many of the international students they may not have to face an interview and may be taken on off the back of a digital submission.

If the students achieve the FDA they were formally given the opportunity to top up year so their qualification would become a Bachelor’s degree. This has now been changed on a number of courses so that the FDA students now enter final year BA. In almost all instances they perform well with the new BA. This make me question whether the experience of studying on the FDA has readied them for this challenges of the BA or if they would have could of potentially developed further if they had been pushed on the more competitive BA from day one. Does offering FDA encourage inclusivity or is it in essence a return to the Tripartite System of old with grammar schools and secondary moderns?

In my own teaching practice and admissions process I try to avoid all unnecessary academic jargon, acronyms and ‘art speak’ which is often buy its very nature meant to exclude. When teaching I am keen to get the students to embrace and follow there own passion in regards to the reference and research that is the foundations of there collections and not follow the current orthodoxies and trends that often manifest within art and design schools and are often dictated by the middle classes.

In the first year we often try to engage students in group projects, to try and encourage cohesion between the students from all cultural backgrounds. These projects are met with a mixed reception, some groups come together they forge strong working relationships that extend throughout their university lives, but as often as that does happen they is a flip side. Some frustrated with working different peoples working practices and methods and skill set are radically different. Logistically they can be tricky as they require much planning and getting the group to meet and communicate within groups can be hard, as some students often live quite far away from campus (often those from lower income families or mature students) and want to avoid expensive journeys into university unless completely necessary so can be held at disadvantage and become alienated from the group.