In acknowledging the complex issues raised throughout this book, which emphasize the ways that power is exercised in intensely hierarchical institutions such as universities, the difficulties posed for a transformative approach to widening participation emerges. Indeed, in taking seriously the analysis presented in the book, how can those committed to a transformative project of widening participation help to shift practices away from the utilitarian approaches currently prioritized in policy and practice? If those who occupy positions of authority and power in relation to setting the framework and making key decisions re-privilege discourses of utilitarianism and deficit, then how can we expect to move away from such approaches? It is important of course to note the ways that higher education institutions, and the senior management teams within them, are regulated, subjected to surveillance, assessed and placed in global, national and local hierarchies in ways that profoundly constrain the possibilities for change and transformation. However, drawing on the critical tools of the body of theoretical work discussed in this book will move us towards praxis and will support the collaborative development of counter-hegemonic and subversive practices of resistance. I have argued in this book that we must move beyond current hegemonic

discourses and practices of higher education to reconceptualize widening participation as a project of transformation for social justice. Much of the current WP policy and practice emphasizes issues prior to access to higher education, most prominently ‘raising aspirations’ and raising levels of educational attainment. Although aspirations and attainment are certainly important, I have argued throughout the book that hegemonic utilitarian approaches to aspirations and attainment do not have the capacity to address deep-seated and long-standing historical injustices within education. Furthermore, although it is significant to address the complexities of under-representation in higher education prior to entry, I have argued strongly that it is equally important to attend to issues of inequality and misrecognition in terms of participation in higher education, beyond entry. Indeed, higher education practices that are connected to pedagogy, curriculum and assessment remain central areas of exclusion and it is therefore imperative to explore possibilities

for developing structures, strategies and frameworks that support inclusive practices underpinned by a commitment to ethics and social justice. One of the most challenging aspects of this is to involve those in the most

privileged social positions, for example those in senior positions in prestigious universities, to participate in the questioning of practices and policies that reinforce inequalities, differences and misrecognitions across a range of higher educational contexts. This demands a critically reflexive framework for developing ethical, inclusive and participatory practices in higher education. Nancy Fraser’s conceptualization of social justice (1997), which requires simultaneous attention to distribution and recognition, is particularly insightful and important in developing such a reflexive framework. This involves a deeply transformative reorientation to the project of widening participation, which engages those in the most privileged nations, institutions and social groups in subjecting themselves to change and transformation rather than the current context, which focuses on the ‘disadvantaged’ becoming more like the advantaged (Gewirtz, 2001; Archer and Leathwood, 2003). However, a revisioning of widening participation must also involve a broadening of the focus of participation: in higher education, but also beyond it, to consider other interconnected realms of social life, relations and learning, with particular detailed attention to the politics of redistribution and recognition and constructions of different forms of learning, students and education. This requires processes of re/memory in making connections between Fraser’s framework for social justice and the silenced histories that have been key in re/shaping current unequal social relations, differences and inequalities across different social, cultural and global contexts (Livingston, 2009). The transformative vision of widening participation that I have proposed in

this book is a significant, long-term and radical one and is challenging in relation to discourses of difference and the neoliberal global frameworks currently regulating and producing educational policies and practices. However, the vision is worth keeping to the fore of our pedagogical and methodological imaginations. Indeed, it is possible that the global economic crisis offers us new ways of doing and understanding, and so we are presented with hope and an opportunity for ‘a new imagination that is freed from the stifling neoliberal orthodoxy of the past decades’ (Badat, 2010: 136). Developing reflexive practices and orientations, which place social justice, equality, ethics, redistribution and recognition as a central focus, is a helpful first step in the project of reconceptualizing widening participation. Further steps include resisting forms of neoliberal regulation, developing collaborative and counterhegemonic practices and methodologies and rejecting the current modes of individualization. Reconceptualizing widening participation requires participants (e.g. educational leaders and managers, policy-makers, students and teachers) to problematize and reconstitute their practices in all dimensions of education, including approaches to pedagogy, assessment, quality, management and leadership, challenging discourses of difference and inequality (Burke and Jackson, 2007).