Third sector organisations in widening participation policy: networks, expertise and authority

SQUIRE, Ruth (2022). Third sector organisations in widening participation policy: networks, expertise and authority. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis examines the involvement of third sector organisations in widening participation policy enactment. Whilst national widening participation policy is largely concerned with the actions of higher education providers and of government, there are a growing number of third sector organisations informing policy and practice through their activities and research. Thus far, these organisations have been absent from widening participation research and hence this thesis addresses a gap in understanding the many actors engaged in enactment of widening participation policy. This research is based in an interpretive approach to policy analysis, combining expert interviews with documentary analysis to explore the roles that third sector organisations have taken on within widening participation policy enactment. Based on Colebatch’s (2002) articulation of policy as authority, order and expertise, this thesis analyses the actions of third sector organisations in context to assess how they are contributing to shaping widening participation policy and the potential for further development of their influence. This research identifies that third sector organisations play a peripheral role in shaping widening participation policy, though some have more prominent roles in promoting a fair access variant of widening participation, in mainstreaming specific forms of outreach activity and in promoting a focus on evaluation and particularly a ‘what works’ approach. Despite limited indications of influence on policy, this research also demonstrates that many third sector organisations are actively engaging in policy discussions and seeking to inform the direction of policy through establishing positions as ‘networked experts’. These positions are unstable, and are influenced by funders, engagement in elite networks and by the leading organisations in the field. This thesis makes distinct contributions to knowledge through examining the emergence and practices of organisations not yet examined in widening participation policy and by exploring widening participation policy enactment in context. Additionally, the findings in relation to the environment of widening participation policy making offers new insights into how policy is made and enacted, including whose interests are represented.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Mccaig, Colin [0000-0003-4364-5119]
Thesis advisor - Dean, Jon [0000-0003-3338-1957]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Colin McCaig / Supervisors: Dr. Jon Dean.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 14:41
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 15:17

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