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Contextualised approaches to widening participation: a comparative case study of two UK universitiesThis article reports on institutional research at two contrasting UK universities, each with different foci in relation to widening participation (WP). The researchers sought to explore senior staff perspectives on the WP agenda at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and turmoil in the UK higher education sector. The research consisted primarily of interview data from university leaders responsible strategically for WP activity. The findings offer a nuanced narrative of the policy and practice of widening participation at two contrasting universities. Researchers found that the WP discourse itself is perceived as confused and discredited. Viewing ‘widening participation students’ as a homogenised group risks both the benefits of differentiated responses through discipline or subject areas and the benefits of more student-centred measures of success.