Fair Access Research and Practice (FAR)

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Bournemouth University’s (BU) pioneering Fair Access Research project (FAR) has brought together students, the Students’ Union (SUBU) and staff from across the University to develop and expand expertise and reflexive practice in the field of fair access to higher education.

Project Updates:

January 2018: Supporting Educational Attainment, Progression and Aspiration of Young White Disadvantaged Males: An Action Research project.
The aim of this recent action research was to establish principles of successful approaches which can be adopted to address lower educational attainment and aspirations of white ‘working class’ boys. The report on the qualitative research undertaken in this project is now available here.

March 2018: Diversity, Recruitment and Retention in Nurse Education Programmes: Catalyst Event report
The report of a ‘Catalyst Event’ is available here. The event, organised by Edge Hill University and Bournemouth University examined diversity, recruitment and retention in nurse education with many stakeholders who shared their research findings about widening participation in nurse education and explored the challenges in maintaining the supply of qualified nurses to the health and social care sectors.
Published paper:  Heaslip, V., Board, M., Duckworth, V., Thomas, L., 2017. Widening Participation in Nurse Education: An Integrative Review. Nurse Education Today, (50), 66-74


 Explore the wide range of activities within the 5 core themes:Fair-Access-Research-project-diagram


Ways of working Continuation Outreach Admissions Experience

Ways of Working




Through exploring each of these different stages in the student lifecycle, the research team are developing an understanding of

  • the challenges some students face in accessing or succeeding at university
  • how university is experienced by diverse groups of students
  • how the university can support them in the optimum way when they are here

Why is this project important?
Each member of the team brings different expertise and experiences to the projects within the five core areas.  By learning together with colleagues and students from across BU, we are establishing new ways of working and building a community who can share experiences and expertise to meet the complex challenges facing widening participation research, policy and practice. As a result, FAR is inspiring new ways of thinking about fair access and how changes can be made through adopting a whole institution approach to make higher education an accessible and positive experience for all students.

“It’s bizarre in a way. Everybody in the research was really different, but the core values were all the same.” Undergraduate researcher on FAR Project strand

“It’s bizarre in a way. Everybody in the research was really different, but the core values were all the same.” Undergraduate researcher on a FAR Project strand

Where did this project come from?
Fair access, or widening participation (WP), is an area of considerable interest in the UK’s higher education sector. The government has called on the sector to work together to break down the barriers that prevent people from diverse backgrounds from entering and flourishing in higher education.

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Groups of students from widening participation backgrounds include:

  • Mature,
  • Disabled,
  • Ethnic origin (Black and Minority Ethnic groups),
  • First generation to attend university,
  • Lower socio-economic groups,
  • Lower participating neighbourhoods,
  • Care leavers,
  • Care givers.

Underpinned by an ethos of inclusive education, a commitment to student engagement and practice-led research, the programme of Fair Access Research developed a series of innovative research projects exploring what it means to be a student in the 21st century.


Thought Pieces
These are short, reflective pieces about projects within the FAR Research programme which aim to share ideas and experiences with others, to get them thinking and to inspire them.

Thought Piece 1.  Dr Jacqueline Priego  All of us put other people first
Narratives from BU student carers. A reflective piece on a co-production project.
Find more information on this project on the FAR Experience page Students who bounce back

Published Papers

Expand for full listing

Gauntlett, L., Bickle, E., Thomas, G., Collins, B., Heaslip, V. and Eccles, S., 2017. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: A means of exploring aspiration and resilience amongst Widening Participation students. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 19 (2), 63-86.    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/openu/jwpll/2017/00000019/00000002;jsessionid=2dm9a1ff20i61.x-ic-live-02

Hunt, C., Collins, B., Wardrop, A., Hutchings, M. Heaslip, V., Pritchard, C., 2017. First and second generation design and engineering students: Experience, attainment and factors influencing them to attend university. Higher Education Research and Development, doi available    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07294360.2017.1342607
Article DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1342607  

Wardrop, A., Hutchings, M., Collins, B., Heaslip, V., Eccles, S., Hunt, C., Pritchard, C., 2016.  Troubling ideas: how HEIs in England engage with research in their access agreements.  Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 18 (2), 84-110.
24/06/2016: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/openu/jwpll
This article explores how higher education institutions in England engage with research in their access agreements. Through an analysis of access agreements from 2014-15 to 2016-17, a picture of how research is understood, undertaken and documented emerges.


Other WP Papers published by BU

Heaslip, V., Board, M., Duckworth, V., Thomas, L., 2017. Widening Participation in Nurse Education: An Integrative Review. Nurse Education Today, (50), 66-74

Heaslip, V., Hewitt-Taylor, J., Alexander, P., Ellis-Hill, C., Seibert-Santos, C., 2015. What factors influence Fair Access students to consider university and what do they look for? Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning. 17 (4), 67-88.

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Tagged:admissionscontinuationfair accessoutreachstudent engagementstudent experiencestudent retentionwidening participation

Latest news from this project:

 Project Publications

Fair Access Briefing 3 August 2017

Fair Access Briefing  2   July 2016

Fair Access Briefing 1     May 2016

Think Pieces

Published papers


BU Links

BU Centre for Excellence in Learning (CEL)

BU Dignity Diversity and Equality

BU FAR project information

BU OFFA Fair Access Agreement

BU Research Site

BU Students’ Union (SUBU)

BU Collaborate

BU Festival of Learning

BU Research pages

Recent WP Projects funded by BU

Recent BU Published Papers relating to WP

External Links

Action on Access

Equality Challenge Unit

Higher Education Academy (HEA)

HEA ‘Student Retention and Success’ discussion list

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)  Tackling Inequality

National Education Opportunities Network (NEON)

Office for Fair Access (OFFA)

Southern Universities project (SUN)

HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO)

Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA)

Society for Research into HE (SRHE) Access and WP

Sutton Trust


Widening Participation discussion list (jisc)

Statistics and Data

HEA Widening Participation Evidence Net

HEFCE non-continuation rates datasets

HESA Widening Participation tables

UKGOV statistics on WP


Key external published resources

Government White Paper   Success as a knowledge economy 

HEFCE   Trends in young participation in higher education

HEFCE  WP Literature Review

HESA  Enhancing access, retention, attainment and progression in HE

Institute for Fiscal Studies  Widening Participation in HE: Analysis using linked administrative data

National Audit Office  Trends in Widening Participation in HE in England

Runnymede Trust  Widening Participation and Race Equality

Universities UK (2016)  Working in partnership: enabling social mobility in higher education – the final report of the Social Mobility Advisory Group