Widening HE participation in the arts: Impacts of an access module on learner preparedness

Butcher, John and Clarke, Anactoria (2021). Widening HE participation in the arts: Impacts of an access module on learner preparedness. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14740222211004884

Abstract

Despite the plethora of research on widening participation in the last 20 years, access to the arts and humanities has remained relatively under-explored, especially in relation to the preparedness of adult learners. This article reports a case study investigating the impact of an arts and languages Access module at the UK Open University. Findings from interviews with 37 Access students were analysed in relation to four themes: the need for Access preparation; generic studentship skills; discipline-specific skills; intrinsic enjoyment and interdisciplinary study. We conclude embedded generic skills enhance learner confidence and time management, while academic literacy skills relevant to the arts and humanities enhance cultural capital and enable disadvantaged learners to access challenging disciplines. The impact of a preparatory arts and humanities module extends into the lives of individual students, suggesting a counter-narrative to the prevailing, ‘economic value’ paradigms of higher education policymakers.

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