Looking through the kaleidoscope
This chapter explores the implications of the increasing diversification of Scottish higher education with particular reference to the issue of widening access to higher education. Widening access to post-compulsory education and training has become a central theme in lifelong learning policy in Scotland. It is argued that while these changes are perceived to be driven by an access agenda, in fact they may lead to new patterns of inequality. The discussion draws on evidence from a national study of access to higher education. We argue that higher education has diversified along a number of dimensions and that this has led to a much more complex 'configuration'. It is therefore less and less appropriate to discuss, research and analyse 'higher education' as though it were a unitary phenomenon, system or concept. For example, the diversification of higher education inevitably means that costs, benefits and risks associated with participation are less certain and likely to be highly contextually specific. This has implications for the conceptual framing and design of future research on higher education and particularly access to higher education.