Widening Participation in Higher Education in Ghana and Tanzania


There was a collaborative approach to data collection, with local teams set up comprising researchers, policymakers, managers, students and equity advocates. They identified datasets that helped them construct equity scorecards for promoting inclusion and achievement of socially and economically excluded groups in case study institutions and identify interview samples.

The project research design had four principal components: statistics, documentary analysis, life history interviews with students and semi-structured interviews with policy makers and academic staff.


  • Local teams comprising researchers, policymakers, equity advocates and staff and student representatives from the case study institutions were established. The ESC Groups collaborated in the construction of Equity Scorecards to reveal inclusion and achievement of socially and economically excluded groups in the case study institutions. The Working Groups helped identify the datasets required to construct selected Equity Scorecards.
  • University-level statistics were collected: rates of application, enrolment, retention, completion and achievement, and where available disaggregated to reveal the effects of gender, socioeconomic status, age, disability, religion.
  • New Programme-level datasets were built at each case study institution: data on applications, admissions, enrolment, retention, and completion are being collated for a selection of programmes ranging from education to medicine, and disaggregated to reveal the effects of gender, socio-economic status, age and disability.
  • National and international statistics were explored to reveal the context and nature of higher education in each country (see Ghana and Tanzania pages for more statistical information)


  • Documents relating to international and national higher education policies in Ghana, Tanzania and world-wide were collected and analysed.
    • International policies play a central role in the development of higher education. Organisations such as UNESCO , the Commission for Africa , the World Bank's Task Force on Higher Education and Society view higher education as central to economic and social development.
    • National policies on poverty reduction and higher education development generally aim to expand higher education and improve access for under-represented groups.
  • Literature is searched intensively. Bibliographies are regularly published on the project website. The literature search includes the following themes:
    • Higher education in Africa
    • Widening participation and affirmative action in higher education
    • Gender and gender mainstreaming in higher education
    • Equity Scorecards
    • Social class, race and ethnicity in higher education
    • Access, retention and achievement in higher education
    • Massification and expansion of higher education
    • Private higher education
    • Life history research
    • Political economy and globalisation of higher education

Our Bibliography page.

Student Life Histories

Life-history interviews with students from 'non-traditional' backgrounds at both public and private universities provide more textured understandings of barriers and enablers to participation in higher education. The interviews focus on social, economic and cultural backgrounds and networks, decision-making processes to enter higher education and previous and current educational experiences. The students are asked to identify what factors helped or impeded their entry and achievement in higher education. The student sample includes non-traditional students from diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, nationality, language and age. 100 Life History Interviews are being undertaken in each country.

Interviews with policy makers and staff

Semi-structured interviews with staff and senior staff at the case study institutions, as well as with key policy markers, will further illuminate the quantitative data. The interviews explore individual experiences and views on strategies and obstacles to widening participation, instances of good practice and positive institutional initiatives on widening participation and poverty reduction. Participants include national policy makers and staff at the case study institutions including senior academic staff, admissions managers, student support and welfare officers, directors of outreach programmes, and academic staff. The participants are asked about: their views on the effectiveness and scope of institutional policies for widening participation and poverty reduction, their thoughts on how national and international policies are being implemented in their institutions, what barriers to participation exist and what strategies could be put in place. 100 Interviews were undertaken with staff and policy-makers in each country.