An Investigation into Partnership Working to Widen Participation in Higher Education in the South-West of England, with Particular Reference to Lifelong Learning Networks (LLNs)

  • Sheila Leahy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Partnerships between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Further Education Colleges (FECs) were a specific recommendation of the 1997 Dearing Review and a major component of New Labour's 'Third Way'. Between 1997 - 2010 one of the key policy drivers was to widen participation in higher education with a target of 50% participation of 18 - 30 year olds by 2010. Funded partnerships were seen as the mechanism to achieve this target. Arguably partnerships between higher education (HE) and further education (FE) were not new. Many of the so-called 'post-92' universities which had previously been polytechnics had achieved growth through partnerships with FECs and considered themselves, perhaps, to be leading the way in widening participation. Among a plethora of policy initiatives, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) embarked on its own innovative partnership scheme, Lifelong Learning Networks. Drawing heavily from examples in North America, these were conceived as a way of achieving planned progression into higher education for students with vocational qualifications at level three. The response from the higher education sector to the initiative was equivocal at best and the results uneven. This study draws from Bourdieu's early anthropological studies and combines aspects of these with his study of the fields of the arts and higher education to propose a new reading of the policy response and practice of widening participation in higher education through partnerships.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor)


  • partnership
  • widening participation
  • lifelong learning networks
  • field theory

Cite this