Widening participation through the Learner Life Cycle

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The global movement towards a mass system of higher education has placed increasing emphasis on the concept of student transition, particularly as this relates to the challenge of widening participation for under-represented groups. Despite this, the area remains under-researched and evidence of impact of widening participation activities is scant. In addition, there is a dearth of institutional case studies which illustrate transition support for widening participation in action. Drawing on the experiences of Glasgow Caledonian University, this paper argues that transition into, through and out of higher education for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds is best facilitated when a life cycle approach to students in transition is employed. From consideration of the policy context in Scotland, current research and institutional responses, the paper advocates the life cycle model, as developed by Milburn, usefully delineated as, 'getting ready', 'getting in', 'staying in' and 'getting on' in higher education. Institutional case studies of good practice validate this life cycle approach to managing transitions, illustrating a positive shaping of widening participation responses and enhancement of the student experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-116
Number of pages23
JournalWidening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • widening participation, holistic, life cycle approach, transition, impact.


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