'Let the Right Ones In!': Widening Participation, Academic Writing and the Standards Debate in Higher Education

French, Amanda (2013) 'Let the Right Ones In!': Widening Participation, Academic Writing and the Standards Debate in Higher Education. Power and Education, 5 (3). pp. 236-247. ISSN 1757-7438

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This paper challenges the frequently expressed concern, post-1992, that widening participation (WP) has contributed to a general ‘dumbing down’ of higher education in English universities *(Burke, 2005; Leathwood, 2010). In particular, it explores the implications of a long-standing ‘moral panic’ (Cohen,
1972) about the poor quality of students’ academic writing, particularly in the ‘new’ universities, which have been raised in various academic reports and countless media articles. A vampire metaphor is used throughout the paper to highlight ways in which assumptions about these falling standards in undergraduates’ academic writing feed on the foundations of a longstanding, albeit implicit, distrust of the growth in the sector on elitist, ideological grounds.

The second half of the paper investigates how academic writing practices, whilst difficult to define, nonetheless wield a ‘disciplinary power’ (Foucault, 1980), over lecturers and students in the academy. This includes a discussion about how a situated, New Literacy Studies (NLS) approach to academic writing development challenges the view that students’ academic writing standards are falling. In contrast, the paper suggests that all universities have a responsibility to acknowledge and develop the different literacies that students, especially widening participation students, bring with them to university.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.2304/power.2013.5.3.236
1 September 2013Published
10 May 2013Accepted
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Study of Practice and Culture in Education (C-SPACE)
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Amanda French
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 09:00
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 17:01
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6865

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