It’s worth saying, from the start, and for those of you who don’t know this, that I have some ‘history’ in this field. Before I became a lecturer, last year, I had worked as a university administrator since 1992.
For most of that time, I worked in, and ran, university Admissions Offices, processing student’s UCAS applications. The main two universities where I did this work both had a strong commitment, at the time, to recruiting students from the ethnically diverse, and socially deprived London boroughs where they were based.
More recently, from 2001 until (almost exactly) a year ago, I ran a large, and successful, widening participation project – the Access to Medicine Project – based in the School of Medicine at King’s College London. Although my job there was operationally focused, I did create some space to carry out a few small action research projects. The Place of Aspirations research that I’m currently working on builds upon that work, and many of the research questions that motivate it are inspired by critical reflections upon my own work as a widening participation practitioner and my observations of how many of the other projects I worked alongside had changed over time.
I’m not yet sure how my professional experience (and those earlier small action research projects) will feed into the analysis of the Place of Aspirations research. But some of the widening participation practitioners I have been interviewing for this research are people I have known and worked alongside for many years. We have a lot of shared experience and common points of reference, and it has been a challenge at times to ensure that, in the interviews, we do not talk local jargon at each other, as shorthand for fuller explanations of what we each think about the topic at hand.