Negotiating a dual deficit: the work of student support between conservative audacity and tempered radicalism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Student support practitioners, who provide students with academic, emotional and social support, are integral to higher education institutions’ initiatives to widen participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet, despite calls for a deeper understanding of widening-participation practice, the work of these professionals has received scant research attention. Drawing on interviews with 39 support practitioners working in Israeli higher education institutes, this study explores how practitioners negotiate two contrasting yet coexistent interpretations of ‘deficit’: student deficit, focused on student inadequacies, and an institutional deficit, focused on shortcomings of the higher education institution. In analyzing how support practitioners negotiate this dual deficit, I draw on the theoretical constructs of tempered radicalism and conservative audacity. The study provides new perspectives on the challenges of widening participation in the current higher education policy climate and reveals the strategies of action that support practitioners use to manage them. The study also contributes to the literature on organizational agency, through the theoretical development of the concept of conservative audacity as agency for change, illuminating the situations in which organizational members who do not challenge institutional frameworks nevertheless disrupt the status quo as part of their everyday work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1440-1452
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Research into Higher Education.


  • Widening participation
  • change
  • equality
  • inclusion
  • student support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Negotiating a dual deficit: the work of student support between conservative audacity and tempered radicalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this