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John Butcher and Rohini Corfield, Leadership discourses differentiated: the challenge for Widening Participation and employability across the disciplines
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9 January 2012
To be presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourses of Inclusion in Higher Education', 24-25 April 2012
Leadership discourses differentiated: the challenge for Widening Participation and employability across the disciplines
Dr John Butcher and Rohini Corfield
This paper reports on institutional research at the authors’ university, in which senior discipline leaders’ (Deans) perceptions of Widening Participation (WP) were explored in relation to discourses of employability. The research coincided with unprecedented turmoil in the UK higher education sector (mid-2011) as fees were set to triple and numbers were capped. The researchers probed the Dean’s awareness of the implications of a changed WP discourse (Butcher et al, 2011) on the recruitment and progression of students from under-represented backgrounds.
The researchers designed an institutional case-study which drew evidence from semi-structured interviews with discipline leaders contextualised by a critical review of current institutional policies, structures and processes.
Findings offer unique insights into leadership interpretations about the social, political and economic factors influencing the employability of WP students (Greenbank, 2006). Analysis suggests discipline leaders navigate the changing Higher Education WP environment through a ‘subject lens’, interpreting the interplay of complex factors which drive decision making (Stevenson et al, 2010) in relation to employability.