Tuesday 9th December Session F 16.45-18.00
Programme number: E10.1
Research Domain: Learning and Teaching
University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Widening participation through a Foundation degree: using ethical
capability concepts to understand the meaning of social justice within
caring relationships (0364)
A wealth of research into ethics education is available, albeit from well-
established professions. Foundation degrees, recognised as widening access
to HE from hard-to-reach under-represented groups, are not yet well
researched. Nonetheless they are the preferred qualification for new,
unregistered and semi-autonomous ‘Associate Practitioners’. The
responsibility to equip this group for ethical practice is arguably every bit as
great as it is to those in more traditional roles. However literature suggests
that the abstract nature of ethics can militate against deep understanding in
‘practical-minded’ students, and even creates avoidance and alienation
(Jaeger, 2001:131; Leget, 2004). Informal, practice-based acculturation is a
valuable way of imparting ‘professional’ values (Aveyard et al, 2005), but
Foundation degree students do not belong to a profession. The unique life
and work experiences, values and beliefs brought by a diverse student body
(like Foundation degree cohorts) is seen by Handelsman et al (2005) as a
challenge to ‘one-size-fits-all’ curricula. So how might educators overcome
these hurdles, without compromising students’ preparation for ethical
This paper will offer a strategy, developed from case study research with
graduates in which highly person-centred approaches to caring emerge as a
dominant influence. Respecting this emotional perspective (to avoid
defensiveness and subsequent alienation / disengagement), while introducing
alternative, rational means of engaging with underpinning issues, presents
both challenges and opportunities. Rooted in the concept of social justice,
Nussbaum’s (1999) capabilities approach provides one such opportunity. By
exploring layers of responsibility and influence in real relationships, complex
and contradictory ideas can be experimented with and returned to over time.
Students necessarily revisit values and aspirations, and importantly their
spheres of influence. In doing so, they begin the real work of change from
ethical practitioners to ethical people.
Aveyard, H., Edwards, S. & West, S. (2005).
Handelsman, M.M., Gottlieb, M.C. & Knapp, S. (2005).
Jaeger, S.M. (2001).
Leget, C. (2004)
Nussbaum, M. (1999).