Higher education is usually the preserve of the white, able-bodied middle classes. The authors report on a project designed to challenge this by giving access to working class, black and disabled community activists to the degree in Community Education. The authors argue that the success experienced by this group is the result of the interaction between personal and institutional factors, and their collective resistance to the individualising tendencies of traditional approaches to higher education. The group's authors analyse the individual and collective motivation, and identify three distinguishing factors in terms of personal values (intrinsic); material rewards (extrinsic); and the political significance of their collective action (political). The authors suggest that this project, by developing critical awareness and understanding, and emphasising the continuing role of the participants in their communities, has brought about institutional and personal change that will enable other traditional non-participants to participate.