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Enhancing Higher Education access for underrepresented groups

Working title of the working group: 'Enhancing Higher Education access for underrepresented groups: Characteristics of effective programmes, policies, and practices'


  • To conduct a systematic search and a review of research and policy literature that assesses the effectiveness of programmes, policies and practices for widening access for underrepresented groups.
  • To present a paper and publish the results.

Working paper


‘What works for underrepresented groups? Identifying effective measures for enhancing access to higher education in Europe’ (pdf, 2020)


Simona Torotcoi (Central European University), Delia Gologan (University of Bucharest), Anastasia Kurysheva (University Medical Center Utrecht and Utrecht University)

Purpose of the paper:

The current paper has two aims. The first aim is to collect, document, scrutinise and critically analyse the current research literature which assesses the effectiveness of different programs, projects, policies and measures for widening access for underrepresented groups in Europe at the higher education institutions level. The second aim is to identify gaps in the literature and make recommendations for both further research and policy makers.


In the first step, we mapped existing research by conducting a preliminary scoping literature search of studies on access policies and programmes for underrepresented student groups. Based on this, the list of search words was refined and exclusion and inclusion criteria for studies were developed.

In the second step, we conducted a systematic search in the largest educational databases (Web of Science and ERIC) for studies, reported in English. The search was conducted using search words related to higher education institutions on one hand (e.g. universities) and underrepresented groups of students on the other hand (e.g. first-generation students). This systematic search and our own knowledge of the relevant studies in the field delivered 17 papers.


The general structure of the paper is as follows:

  1. Equity considerations within the Bologna Process.
  2. Access policies between national frameworks and institutional practices.
  3. Access measures for underrepresented groups and the effects of these measures.
  4. Conclusions and recommendations.