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What does Widening Participation mean?

Widening participation (WP), also known as widening access, aims to support and encourage students whose personal circumstances put them at a disadvantage when pursuing higher education (2).

Universities may offer dedicated scholarships, grants, and bursaries as part of this.


WP is a strategy between governments and the higher education sector in the UK to support students from particular backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented at universities to pursue these paths.

This may include students who are:

  • the first in their family to go to university or college

  • are currently or have been in care

  • from particular ethnic groups, such as black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME)

  • from low socio-economic groups (i.e. families with low income)

  • in a school or live in an area where low numbers of students go to university or college

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