Can the 'under-represented' student speak? Discerning the subjects amongst the objects of widening participation in higher education


Remy Low

Publication Date



Much of the recent writing concerning social inclusion and equitable access to higher education for “under-represented groups” in Australia have focused on the design of partnership programs and institutional arrangements deemed necessary for widening the participation of target groups – for example, students from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, indigenous students and those differently able. In this article, I put forward an account from the perspective of a widening participation project – [μ] – that seeks to identify some of the factors at a local level that may be of consequence to the broadening of higher education enrolment targets in general.

Through the issues arising in 3 focus group discussions each with 5 students from a high school in Mount Druitt, Western Sydney, I conjecture that while the prevailing focus on the objects of widening participation like partnership programs, institutional changes and numerical targets is indispensable, equal attention also needs to be paid to the lived realities of its subjects – that is, the students and their experiential fields (Lewin, 1946) – if the recruitment of low SES students is to be effective. I look at youth culture as one key element of such a lived reality and offer some preliminary proposals for how to articulate this element into a strategy for widening participation in the context of Mount Druitt.


Institute for Advancing Community Engagement

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access