Learning Networks - Widening Participation

At the last event

28 June 2019

At the last Widening Participation event, the group explored good practice and common struggles in widening participation and discussed how inclusion is at the heart of Erasmus+.

In this session, we heard from Christine Bissex-Foster from Merthyr Tydfil College and Manju Patel-Nair from HEC Global Learning Centre, Tower Hamlets, who both shared best practice around widening participation within their projects.

You can download the notes from the session (327 KB) and see all the photos from the day in the Facebook album.

5 December 2018

At the December event, this workshop considered how to ensure widening participation is taken up by staff and participants in future projects, with case studies from Graham Nicholls from Plymouth & District Mind and Ana Indi Amona from Birmingham City University.

You can download the event report (922 KB) and view all the presentations from the day.


How does the topic relate to Erasmus+?

According to the Programme Guide, the Erasmus+ programme ‘aims at promoting equality and inclusion by facilitating the access to participants with disadvantaged backgrounds and fewer opportunities compared to their peers’. The programme recognises that some people will find it difficult to take part due to a variety of obstacles, and aims to provide the financial support needed to enable projects to overcome these obstacles.

The Programme Guide addresses issues around radicalisation, and the integration of migrants. You can find more information on the European policy perspective behind this update in the section on policy information.

In general terms, Erasmus+ is now seen as an important contributor to social cohesion:

“Europe needs more cohesive and inclusive societies which allow citizens to play an active role in democratic life. Education and youth work are key to prevent violent radicalisation by promoting common European values, fostering social integration, enhancing intercultural understanding and a sense of belonging to a community. Erasmus+ is an important instrument to promote the inclusion of people with disadvantaged backgrounds, especially newly arrived migrants, in response to critical events affecting European countries.”  Page 5, 2017 Call Programme Guide.

More specifically, the programme sees the Strategic Partnerships action (Key Action 2) as a way for organisations working in the education, training and youth fields to undertake activities aimed at inclusion. Horizontal priorities for this action are applicable across all fields and include the following:

"Social inclusion: priority will be given to actions that promote - in particular through innovative integrated approaches - inclusion, diversity, equality, gender-balance and non-discrimination in education, training and youth activities. The Programme will support projects that aim to: foster the development of social, civic, intercultural competences, media literacy and critical thinking, also combating discrimination, segregation, racism, bullying and violence; enhance the access, participation and learning performance of disadvantaged learners, reducing disparities in learning outcomes."

More specific information for organisations interested in applying for funding in this area, can be found in the apply for funding section of the website.

There are many projects already working on widening participation across the different fields of education, training and youth.  Results from across all participating countries can be found in the European Commission’s Project Results Platform. The platform allows you to search by key words such as inclusion or equal opportunities and includes:

  • A project database including links & summaries;
  • A database of project results giving access to learning outcomes;
  • The showcasing of good practices and success stories.

Two key strategies identified for widening participation were partnership working and outreach. View the presentation to find out more.

For the youth sector specifically an Inclusion and Diversity Strategy has been developed for Erasmus+ and this is an important document for projects working with young people and youth workers. Find out more about the Inclusion and Diversity Strategy. SALTO, which is part of the Erasmus+ programme, runs events and training activities on inclusion and diversity and these can be a good way of finding out more about Erasmus+ and sharing ideas and good practice with other organisations in the field. Find out more about SALTO and how to get involved.

You can also find below some case studies of UK projects working in this area. Case studies will be added on an ongoing basis. If you are working in this topic area, why not send us your own case study?

Policy information

UK policies relating to widening participation in education, training and youth are generally dependent on country and sector.

We have selected some useful links below, but please note this doesn’t represent all sectors or countries. We will update links as policies change or are announced:

Higher education

In England, the Government published a white paper on 16 May 2016, ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’, outlining there is more to be done for our university system to fulfil its potential as an engine of social mobility. 

In Scotland, the overarching strategic approach is to produce the skilled workforce necessary to realise Scotland’s Economic Strategy and to develop policies and approaches to improve productivity and reduce inequality. The new administration’s Programme for Government sets out policy aims for the learner journey, widening access, reviewing student support and other enhancements.

In Northern Ireland, the ‘Graduating to Success’ Strategy includes a project to increase Northern Ireland’s International higher education activity with the aim of encouraging and increasing student mobility. 


In England, the Government has aimed to abolish long-term youth unemployment by providing support to those 16-17 year olds not in education, employment or training and to those who risk becoming so. The Government has also committed to guaranteeing a place on the National Citizen Service for every 16 and 17-year-old who wants one. 

In Scotland, Education Scotland, the Scottish Government and YouthLink Scotland are currently working collaboratively to advance the national Youth Work Strategy’s implementation plan. 

In Wales, the Welsh Government’s Traineeship Programme will provide some 25,000 places over the next four years on its training programme for 16-18 year olds and those not otherwise engaged in education or employment. The programme seeks to improve skill levels through the delivery of entry level qualifications up to NVQ Level 2. 

European approach to refugees and migrants

There are also updated European policies in this topic area. Read the summary of the EU’s approach entitled ‘Towards a European agenda on migration’.

The European Commission has also produced a searchable list of Erasmus+ projects across Europe supporting refugees and migrants.

Finally, the latest policy document on this topic area can be found at the webpage for the European Agenda on Migration.

Join the group

Photograph of Widening Participation Learning Networks group

Take a look at our events page for detailed information about the last event. Would you like to join the Widening Participation group? Sign-up to our mailing list and we will contact you to let you know when the next event is taking place!

Case Studies