The primary research for this project is now complete. In addition to the interviews with widening participation policy makers, and the analysis of policy documents and ministerial speeches about widening participation and young people’s aspirations, I have also carried out a focus group with undergraduates from widening participation backgrounds. These students were all active student ambassadors at their university – involved in the delivery of widening participation activities and serving as role models to young people identified by their schools as being able to benefit from widening participation schemes.
I had hoped to hold focus groups with student ambassadors in London and the East Midlands, but in the end, only the East Midlands group came together – despite a lot of help and encouragement by former colleagues in London, I was unable to convene a group of students there within the timescale of the project. Similarly, the focus groups with school students currently participating in WP activities could not be organised in time and will have to wait to form part of a future research project. Luckily, I have some unpublished data from an earlier action research project with white working class teenagers in London (carried out in 2007) that I have re-analysed recently and which I hope to incorporate into some of the publications from this project.
The project was due to end on 31 March 2009, but I am grateful to the Royal Geographical Society for granting a short extension, until early June, to allow me to hold a dissemination event reporting my preliminary findings – more about that shortly.