Widening access and social inclusion initiatives are not new ("Universities Scotland praises access efforts", For the record, THES , March 23). But they reflect a "deficit" approach to people, implying that there is something inadequate about their experiences that education can compensate for.
This focus does not challenge the culture of higher education and often ignores the communities from which it is considered desirable to "include" people.
Scottish institutions have backed the Scottish Executive's seven-point strategy for widening access and social inclusion. But research for the report, Access to Achievement, A Guide to How the Scottish Higher Education Sector Is Promoting Social Inclusion , presented at the seminar where this was agreed, "consisted of a period of desk research, followed by structured interviews with relevant staff at 20 higher education institutions".
It seems a little strange that the research did not look at the communities in which "disadvantaged" people live.
Widening access and social inclusion appear to be regarded as synonymous.
Education can play a part but only in concert with communities themselves and where parallel strategies are in place to address infrastructural issues that include housing employment and income.
University of the Highlands and Islands Project