Enhancing access to education and knowledge is a long-held principle enshrined in education policy. Access to education offers leverage for educational attainment and achievement, at the individual and social levels. In policy, the term equates with concepts of inclusion, social justice and equity. Over the last decades, as education policy has responded to global social, cultural and economic reforms, concepts such as access have also undergone revision. This article revisits the relationship between access, education and knowledge-making, in order to clarify the meaning of access in current education policies by re-evaluating how access is constructed in policy and how the concept associates with other aspects of education. The research examines the concept of access in order to improve the efficacy of policy, opening the way for more systematic and transparent policy analysis and policy making centred on defining and delineating conceptual meanings such as access, as a basis for more targeted policy. Using evidence-based policy research, the article proposes a research process model based on the hierarchy of abstraction, to show that education policy requires systematic examination of key concepts as a fundamental step towards more clearly defined policy postulates that recognise and deal with contextual complexity of education policy. Defining and delineating the meaning of concepts such as access can help in the way that education policy contributes to guiding innovative knowledge construction.