We agree with the Hepi report's suggestion that there are deeper cultural reasons why certain groups, especially boys, are not being attracted into higher education. We believe that the issue of culture holds the key to achieving government targets.
Our research has involved people from disadvantaged communities who were academically successful, particularly those from Welsh language communities and urban communities of south Asian origin. We concluded that socio-cognitive factors, local cultures and "habitus" (one's disposition to higher education) are vitally important. Such factors, if favourable, will enable some people to overcome "barriers" to higher education.
Conversely, if this cultural and psychosocial framework is unfavourable, individuals may not succeed no matter how hard policy-makers and institutions try to help, or however much people would like to enter higher education.
The study of local cultures and habitus relating to families, neighbours and occupational and gender groups is vital if higher education initiatives are to be targeted effectively. Only when we are able to put in place carefully designed and evidence-based interventions at community and school level will we be able to enhance participation rates within the Government's time frame.
John Fazey and Sally Baker
University of Wales, Bangor
B. J. Brown