Challenging the Use of a Deficit Model: Reflections on Taking an Asset Model Approach with Mature Foundation Archaeology Students

  • Rachel L. Dunn Durham University
Keywords: foundation, mature students, Archaeology, deficit model, asset model, experience, knowledge, barriers, habitus.


Traditional discussions about mature students in Higher Education stress their alleged needs rather than the potential benefits they can bring. It is this stance that feeds the continual use of a deficit model when approaching mature students. Mature students may have many valuable assets and characteristics, such as passion and personal experiences, which can be used as a resource to support their learning and the learning of others. Deficit models fail to acknowledge that these traits are valuable and should be embraced, especially in terms of subject-specific skills. This article will address and challenge this deficit model perspective, which is often applied to foundation students, using examples of mature students studying Archaeology at Durham University. The primary thesis is that the focus on deficits needs to be challenged and, instead, assets should be at the forefront of any model, with an appreciation that there are areas for development to be tackled as part of the approach.


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Author Biography

Rachel L. Dunn, Durham University

Rachel joined the Foundation Programme at Durham University in 2010. She has been involved with the Foundation Year Network for a number of years and since 2018 has been the Workshop Co-ordinator. She joined the Executive Committee in 2019. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and her research interests focus on widening participation, mature students, problem-based learning and student support. Email: