This page highlights some of our recent activity.

May 2018

It has been a busy few months for Karen MacFarlane who has been showcasing her work on transition and widening access at conferences around the UK, and further afield. Here are some links to the main presentations. See also the Newsletter May 2018.

UALL International Conference, ‘Lifelong Learning in a Changing World,’ March 2018

AshokaU Exchange, Boston, MA, USA, April 2018

Open University International Conference, ‘Is Widening Participation Enough’, Milton Keynes, April, 2018


January 17 2018

An Evaluation of the Advanced Higher Hub: The Learner Perspective

A new report entitled 'An Evaluation of the Advanced Higher Hub: The Learner Perspective' is now available on the ERE website. 

The Advanced Higher Hub was established in 2013, as a partnership with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Funding Council. S6 pupils spend up to 18 per week within the university learning environment and are afforded associate student status with access to the full range of facilities. The Hub offers Advanced Higher subjects: English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Modern Studies, Business Management, History and Physics to between 100 to 160 sixth year pupils each academic year.

The report summarises the outcomes of a research study which sought to examine the experiences of former pupils of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Advanced Higher Hub (the ‘Hub’) in terms of their transition to Higher Education. In-depth one-to-one interviews were carried out with a total of 30 former Advanced Higher pupils who had progressed to university. The focus of the research and of this report is the learner perspective of studying HE level qualifications (Advanced Highers) within a university environment. The report begins with a description of the aims and objectives of the research project. A brief overview of the policy context is then provided in terms of reasons for the development of the Hub. The study’s methodology is outlined before key findings are described by thematic area. The project findings are discussed with reference the theoretical perspective of capability approach and conclusions are drawn in terms of the policy implications for delivering HE level qualifications within a university environment prior to entry and the subsequent impact on transitions.

Report: Evaluation of the Advanced Higher Hub: The Learner Perspective

Author: Karen MacFarlane, Research Fellow,


December 7 2017

Widening Access to Higher Education in 2018: Next Steps

 Karen MacFarlane of the Educational Research and Evaluation team, Academic Quality and Development presenting at the Holyrood event: Widening Access to Higher Education in 2018: Next Steps on 7 December, 2017.

Holyrood 071217

Karen discussed why widening participation to Higher Education is best viewed through the life-cycle model of  learner transitions: Getting Ready, Getting In, Staying In and Moving beyond.

View Karen's presentation 

Next steps for Widening participation should focus attention on the development of:

  • Engaged learning;
  • Sense of belonging and
  • Leaner identity as an HE student

Drawing on her research on GCU's Advanced Higher Hub as a model of good practice, Karen argued that these are facilitated when interventions are immersive, focused around the academic sphere and long-lived as opposed to short-lived one-off activities.