Gaps in the Access Community
The access ‘community’ may be loosely defined as the body of policymakers, researchers, leaders of and professionals and practitioners from within education systems, student groups, community organizations and other stakeholders engaged with the issue of widening access and ensuring success for minority and underrepresented students and populations at the community, city, state, national and global levels. The term ‘community’ however implies a common sense of identity and purpose that exists primarily in parts of Europe and North America, with few international links.
Even in the most developed nations, the access community tends to be fragmented and lacks policy influence at the state and country levels. At the global level, the education agenda has long prioritized access to primary and secondary schooling, where large gaps in access persist, and resources devoted to post-secondary access remain relatively limited, despite a growing acknowledgement of the impact of post-secondary attainment on social and economic outcomes both for individuals and nations.
In many countries where inequities in access to post-secondary studies are prevalent, programs aimed at widening access to post-secondary studies tend to be relatively marginalized within faculties, institutions and higher education systems generally and funding for these activities remains highly vulnerable to budget cutbacks and shifting priorities. In some regions (e.g. Europe and the United States, for example) networks of institutions and organizations with access policies and programs at the institutional and community levels are quite well developed but the progress towards closing gaps in post-secondary education outcomes remains slow if measurable.
These networks may benefit from the presence of researchers who have published extensively on issues of access and success for minority and other underserved populations and governments at various levels (national, state and local) have policies and programs in place that aim to widen access and enhance success for these students.
In other countries, the voice for access at the post-secondary level is non-existent or at best found only in a few “minority-serving institutions” and improving the access pipeline remains a secondary priority to widening the base for primary and secondary schooling.