Access and retention: experiences of non-traditional learners in higher education (RANLHE)

Project leader


Funding source

EU Leonardo da Vinci programme

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2008
End date: 31/12/2010
Funding: 610825 EUR


Retention and drop - out in higher education is an under-researched area in Europe. We believe that this project will fill an important gap in the research field. In recent years policy concern at national and European levels has focused largely on access. However, widening access policies for non-traditional groups (younger and adults) to higher education are not going to succeed unless the learning experience is a positive one.

Higher education institutions need to change to meet the needs of such groups to avoid failure and non-completion, otherwise issues of equity will not be addressed and this research will identify strategies for such changes. Access is now well established in some European countries but the accessibility of knowledge both through appropriate pedagogies and 'adult friendly' supports including accessibility of library and other resources is less so.

Key objectives of the RANLHE project are:

  • to identify the factors which promote or constrain the access, retention and non- completion of non-traditional students (working class, gender and ethnicity issues) to higher education
  • to increase knowledge and understanding through interdisciplinary research of what promotes or limits the construction of learner identity of non- traditional students to become effective learners and which enables or inhibits completion of higher education
  • to identify the policy, cultural and institutional processes, including disciplinary sub-cultures which help or hinder completion
  • to illuminate and theorise, using in-depth biographical and collaborative methods, the structural, cultural and personal dialectics of learning and agency in students' lives
  • to assess the benefits for self and society of participating in learning in HE, whether or not study is completed, and reassess the proposition that it may be worse to withdraw than not to begin
  • to consider the implications of the study for the development of policy and practice across Europe in widening participation, promoting lifelong learning and enhancing the learning experiences of students from under-represented groups
  • to disseminate the findings of the research through regional workshops, national and European conferences and a range of publications aimed at practitioners, policy makers and academics

External Partners

Last updated on 2017-24-03 at 12:52