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Department of Education

Rees Centre

Journal articles

Experts, knowledge and criticality in the age of ‘alternative facts’: re-examining the contribution of higher education

Harrison, N, Luckett, K

3 April 2019 Journal article
Journal:Teaching in Higher Education Volume:24 Issue:3, pp.259 – 271


The Role of the Virtual School in supporting improved educational outcomes for children in care

SEBBA, JUDITH, Berridge, D

Journal article
Journal:Oxford Review of Education


Patterns of participation in higher education for care-experienced students in England: why has there not been more progress?


19 February 2019 Journal article
Journal:Studies in Higher Education, Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Abstract: Children who spend time in the care of their local authority, usually due to neglect or abuse within the birth family, tend to experience significant educational disruption and have lower educational outcomes, on average, than other young people. However, little is known about those subsequently participating in higher education, who comprise just under one percent of the student body in England. The paper synthesises three contrasting datasets to map participation patterns among care-experienced young people for the first time. Considerably more enter higher education than previously thought, but they remain significantly less likely to participate than other young people. Furthermore, they tend to enter later, with less prestigious qualifications and to lower status institutions. The paper concludes by discussing key differences between the datasets, reflecting on difficulties with identifying and recording care-experienced students which may account for an apparent lack of progress in encouraging their participation despite concerted policy efforts.

Access, participation and capabilities: theorising the contribution of university bursaries to students’ well-being, flourishing and success

Harrison, N, Davies, S, Harris, R, Waller, R

2 November 2018 Journal article
Journal:Cambridge Journal of Education Volume:48Issue:6, pp.677 – 695

© 2018, © 2018 University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. For the last 10 years, universities in England have been expected to offer financial support to low-income students alongside that provided by government. These bursaries were initially conceived in terms of improving access for under-represented groups, but attention has turned to their role in supporting student retention and success. This paper reports on two qualitative studies undertaken by contrasting universities that have been brought together due to their complementary findings. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a total of 98 students. Students’ views on bursaries and how they impact on their lives are reported and used to develop a descriptive model of the web of choices that students have in balancing finances and time. This is contextualised within Sen’s ‘capabilities approach’, to argue that providing access to higher education is insufficient if disadvantaged students are not able to flourish by participating fully in the university experience.


Using the Lens of ‘Possible Selves’ to Explore Access to Higher Education: A New Conceptual Model for Practice, Policy, and Research

Harrison, N

Journal:Social SciencesVolume:7Issue:10, MDPI AG, pp.209 – 209

The concept of ‘aspiration-raising’ has been ubiquitous in the discussion of differential rates of participation in higher education in England for many years. Potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds are constructed as setting their sights too low and therefore not considering higher education or ignoring elite universities that they could access. However, it is increasingly understood that aspiration-raising is unable to explain patterns of participation and that it risks ‘blaming the victim’ by failing to appreciate the structural constraints forged through their sociocultural context. The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative lens in the form of ‘possible selves’. This is drawn from the discipline of psychology and aims to explain how we all conceive and develop visions of ourselves in future states. These images create a motivational impetus for actions in the present in order to achieve a like-to-be self—or evade a like-to-avoid self. Notably, the theory takes specific account of the individual’s expectations and the importance of having a clear pathway towards a long-term destination. This paper provides an overview of the foundational theory and empirical evidence for a general readership, before presenting a new conceptual model focused on access to higher education. This is then used to explore the principles that might underpin interventions to support participation from disadvantaged groups within highly stratified systems, as well as suggesting a new policy agenda and priorities for future research.


Students-as-insurers: rethinking ‘risk’ for disadvantaged young people considering higher education in England

Harrison, N

Journal article
Journal:Journal of Youth Studies, Informa UK Limited, pp.1 – 20


Challenging discourses of aspiration: The role of expectations and attainment in access to higher education

Harrison, N, Waller, R

1 October 2018 Journal article
Journal:British Educational Research Journal Volume:44Issue:5, pp.914 – 938

© 2018 British Educational Research Association Raising the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds progressing to higher education has been a key policy objective for successive governments in the UK since the late 1990s. Often this has been conceptualised as a problem with their ‘aspirations’, with the solution being seen as the provision of ‘aspiration-raising’ activities to promote higher education to those thought to have the potential to progress. Recent large-scale studies cast strong doubt on this hypothesis by demonstrating that aspirations are not generally low, that different social groups have similar levels of aspiration and that school attainment accounts for nearly all the differences in participation rates between social groups. This article draws on data from a national project exploring efforts to widen participation across two generations of practitioner-managers in England, focusing on their conceptualisations of the field and their constructions of ‘successful’ activities. It uses the lens of ‘possible selves’ (Markus & Nurius,) to argue that too much policy emphasis has been placed on the aspirations of young people, rather than either their academic attainment or their expectations, which are shaped by the normative expectations of the adults surrounding them. In addition, the more expansive concepts of widening participation that were present a decade ago have become less common, with a shift towards activities with a clear role in institutional recruitment rather than social transformation. The article concludes with alternative suggestions for policy and practice.


Children’s reasoning about the self-presentational consequences of apologies and excuses following rule violations

Banerjee, R, Bennett, M, Luke, N

Journal article
Journal:British Journal of Developmental PsychologyVolume:28Issue:4, Wiley: 12 months, pp.799 – 815


The destitution of young refugees in the UK

O'Higgins, AA

Journal article | Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration

Calculating the costs of local authority care for children with contrasting needs

Ward, H, Holmes, L

Journal:Child & Family Social Work, Wiley, pp.070907134924002


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