This article argues that the contemporary debate or discourse on access and widening participation has been framed in such a way that ideas of community or place or locality have been written out. Current initiatives and policies have been shaped within an individualistic or personalised perspective. One consequence of this is that the widening participation debate has been deradicalised and depoliticised. The article seeks to make a policy and practice link between the initiatives on neighbourhood renewal or neighbourhood management and the way(s) in which access programmes on widening participation projects have been ‘delocalised’ and situated within an institutional or organisational setting. At the same time a number of separate but related developments have accentuated the distance between the access, widening participation and neighbourhood renewal debates. The article suggests that these developments include the decline in the focus of community development work at a local authority level, the changing and fragmented nature of local government and administration and the increase in regional networks to promote ‘access’ linked to the university and post-sixteen sectors. The paper article argues that neither of these two agencies are able to engage appropriately with the neighbourhood regeneration process. The article concludes by suggesting that key lessons of the earlier phase of access developments in the 1980s in the UK need to be re-imagined for a new generation of practitioners and participants, and that this is necessary as we are experiencing a ‘generational shift’ in those engaged with access and return-to-learn initiatives.
|Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning
|Published - Dec 2008