By Tony Hudson, University of East London

Whatever your experience of writing – none, some or extensive – your views as a widening participation practitioner are important. So take a few minutes to complete the online survey WP Practitioners Write! The survey is divided into five sections and contains 28 questions. The majority of questions are fixed choice, with single or multiple responses. Some questions provide space for additional comments and a small number of questions are free text. All responses will be anonymised.

Widening participation to higher education is a vibrant community of practice which has its own specific support and development needs. Although somewhat dated now, a previous study (Hudson & Pooley, 2006) identified a range of support and development needs, and highlighted practitioner demand for training. Since the report was published there have been significant changes across the HE landscape, not least in access and widening participation.  As Wilkins & Burke (2015) note many practitioners have to negotiate and reconcile a commitment to social justice in a neoliberal system of higher education. It seems appropriate to revisit this important community of practice, to learn more about the background of current practitioners and explore the extent to which writing – both everyday writing and writing for publication – is part of their professional practice.

This study is timely. In 2016/17 a writing programme for widening participation practitioners, supported by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, demonstrated practitioners’ interest in disseminating their work through conference presentations and writing for publication. The programme supported 21 participants, and to date has resulted in a number of papers (five in a special edition of the Journal of Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning and one in the Journal of Further and Higher Education) with others going through the publication process (Stevenson et al., 2018). The contribution that widening participation practitioners make to the knowledge base is well recognised and encouraged, most recently by the Office for Students (OfS) in the guidance for access and participation plans 2019-20 (OfS, 2018). The more recent announcement by the Office for Students (OfS) that it intends to establish Evidence and Impact Exchange (EIX) signals the importance and value of practitioner research and provides an opportunity for the voice of practitioners to be brought to the fore. Developing a stronger voice through publication will not only enhance practice but also enable practitioners to have a greater influence in framing policy.

Findings from the research will provide practitioners with an insight into the how others have negotiated competing demands in a neoliberal HE system; overcome the barriers and challenges of writing and in some cases publication. Identifying the motivations and needs of practitioners will also inform the development of support strategies and programmes which may be facilitated by institutions, sector organisations, as well as practitioners themselves.

For more information, contact Tony Hudson:


Hudson, A. and C. Pooley (2006). Support & Recognition For Widening Participation Practitioners. London, Continuum.

OfS (2018). Regulatory Notice 1: Access and participation plan guidance for 2019-20. Available at: [Date accessed 28 February 2018]

Stevenson, J., R. Tooth, A. Bennett and P. J. Burke (2018). “Writing together: practitioners, academics and policy makers.” Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning. 20(3): 7-13.

Wilkins, A. and P. J. Burke (2015). “Widening participation in higher education: the role of professional and social class identities and commitments.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 36(3): 434-452.

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