It is quite right to have regular debates about the meaning and purpose of widening participation. But the more pressing issue is not about getting them in but getting them to stay. Having just completed a Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded resource pack for staff that focuses on effective working with student diversity, piloting the materials has been illuminating.
While there was empathy with the realpolitik of students' lives, some folks still insist that what happens outside the seminar room has nothing to do with them. I asked my niece after her first week at university how it had been. She said the food was awful, her room was poky, she hadn't clicked with anyone but her personal tutor seemed nice so it would probably be all right. Quite so.