Widening participation to address inequality

Universities have a role to play; we can do more, we must do more. Now we are facilitating, leading, having conversations and collaborating.

Michael Bennett,
Associate Director of Widening Participation, Kings College, London

Michael Bennett, Associate Director of Widening Participation explained the philosophy behind his department’s work and why they had generously provided the venue and refreshments for our conference.

Widening Participation is a long-standing policy area and field of practice in Higher Education which all universities do and is something Kings places a lot of stake in and are committed to.

Widening Participation is about addressing unfairness. Where you from and your background affect your trajectory in life. But background is not necessarily deficit; it can be a strength.

The WP priorities of the department and university include:

  • attainment raising
  • seeing young people more than once, over the course of their life
  • supporting parents
  • addressing specific issues
  • hosting and running events like this conference
  • direct work with young people.

The Office of Students has identified Gypsies, Roma and Travellers as a group we should be focussing on but we would be doing that anyway.

How do we do this? Two informal mottos:

  • old keys don’t open new doors – we should always be trying to do new things without being prompted
  • people not programmes – we need to have conversations, do things with people, not to them. “Nothing about us without us.”

In that spirit of conversation and collaboration welcome to your conference.