Gaps in Cultural & Institutional Awareness
The very term ‘access’ is not well understood and means different things in different places. In some countries, access to higher education still implies access to university primarily for higher income groups in society, and in some cases, primarily for males. Increasing access to higher education may be less about widening access to ensure greater equity of higher education opportunity, than it is about increasing overall participation rates and ‘internationalization’, while access remains unattainable for key groups in these societies. Engrained cultural and institutional attitudes, practices and policies, both formal and informal, may restrict access for certain groups.
Where these policies and practices discriminate, they do not always do so intentionally. Where outreach and affirmative action programs are in place, these policies and programs are not necessarily accompanied by student supports and institutional policies and strategies to support student transition to and success at the higher education level and low persistence rates may be the norm.
Among the groups that face the greatest deficit in educational opportunity across the globe are indigenous peoples of many countries, in both the developed and developing world.