Extending possibilities for widening participation: a circus arts and heritage case study

Carmel Thomason


This paper presents a circus arts and heritage case study exploring extended possibilities for widening participation, within a broader conceptual framework of the civic university (Goddard et al., 2016) and Culture 3.0 (Boehm, 2016; Sacco et al., 2018).

Recent changes to UK higher education policy reinforced the strength of universities as ‘anchor institutions’, emphasising a growing civic responsibility, embracing a university’s ability to positively change the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of its surrounding region (UPP Foundation Civic University Commission, 2019). Widening participation is a key priority for the civic university and can no longer be limited to recruitment activities.

The Philip Astley Project offers a potential for institutions embracing an extended vision of widening participation. The work involved overlaps in teaching, research and engagement to deliver social, cultural and economic benefits. Almost 29,000 people took part in 47 activities, while more than 200 staff and students became involved in arts, culture and voluntary activities.

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