‘We thought we would be the dunces’ – From a vocational qualification to a social work degree: an example of widening participation in social work education

Gordon, Jean; Dumbleton, Sue and Miller, Christina (2010). ‘We thought we would be the dunces’ – From a vocational qualification to a social work degree: an example of widening participation in social work education. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 12 pp. 169–184.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5456/WPLL.12.S.169

Abstract

The policies of successive UK governments have promoted access to higher education by students from diverse social backgrounds. This paper uses the example of social work education to examine one way in which The Open University (OU) has sought to attract ‘non-traditional’ students into higher education. It draws on findings from a small-scale research study that explored the experiences of students with vocational and other prior qualifications who gained ‘advanced entry’ to the University’s social work programme in Scotland. The paper explores the interplay between students’ day-to-day experiences of transition and broader influences on widening access to education, including the political and organisational contexts within which this change has taken place. It reflects on both the University’s learning from the experience of implementing this initiative and the continuing experience of widening participation in relation to social work education and, more broadly, to distance learning practices in higher education.

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