Professor Liz Thomas
|Professor Liz Thomas is director of the Widening Participation Research Centre at Edge Hill University. She is also Senior Adviser for Widening Participation at the Higher Education Academy in the UK, and Lead Adviser Working with Institutions for Action on Access, the national widening participation co-ordination team for England. Liz is currently undertaking a review of widening participation strategic assessments prepared by all English higher education institutions, and recently completed a similar review in Wales.
Liz is also leading a research project examining partnerships between schools/college and higher education institutions. Liz has over ten years experience of undertaking and managing widening participation and social inclusion research, including directing an international project with partners from ten countries. Liz is author and editor of nine books on widening participation, including First Generation Entrants in higher education: an international analysis (2006, SRHE and Open University Press); Overcoming the barriers to higher education (2007, Trentham Books); and Improving retention in higher education (2007, Routledge). She is also editor of the journal Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning.
Professor Thomas visited USQ to deliver a keynote address at Enabling Pathways: the 3rd National Conference for Enabling Education, entitled "Developing a socially inclusive higher education system: learning from the English experience", in which she addressed the following themes:
Higher education worldwide faces a series of common challenges, such as the expansion of student numbers and reduced unit funding, and continued under-representation of traditionally excluded groups. There is therefore value in learning from international research and experiences. However the history, context and culture of countries, states and institutions should be taken into account if we are to avoid the trap of naïve borrowing, and instead engage in meaningful learning. In an international study involving ten countries it was striking how the research process challenged our national assumptions and taken for granted knowledge about improving equity in higher education.
In her presentation Liz focused on the early stages of the student lifecycle (outreach, admission and transition into HE). The UK has favoured partnership approaches to widening access and promoting equity in HE, and more recently has recognised the importance of more focused targeting, early and sustained engagements and the evaluation of impact. It is increasingly recognised however that access to HE is insufficient. Institutions are also responsible for the success of their students, and thus need to change to meet the needs of more diverse cohorts. The presentation was informed by an international study considering higher education access and success by a range equity target groups, the English national policy context and analysis of Widening Participation Strategic Assessments from 131 higher education institutions in England.
Dr Henk Huijser interviews Professor Thomas about socially inclusive education and enabling education.
Watch the interview* (11:35 mins)
Third national enabling educators conference brings national attention to USQ
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