Past Event details

Exploring a sense of belonging’ and why it matters in higher education

Friday, 09 June 2017

This set of research papers will allow presenters and participants to critically reflect together upon factors that influence students ‘sense of belonging’ in higher education , and in particular focusing  on  under-represented groups in higher education  This will lead to a discussion that explores how a sense of belonging takes on increasing importance in certain settings or contexts, the challenges of undertaking such research and ways in which the findings might influence both policy and practice. 
Carole Davis, Queen Mary University, London  and Camille Kandiko-Howson, King's College London
Looking at the issue of Admissions – Clearing and Contextual data
Mansor Rezaian, Queen Mary University, London  

This presentation is based on the work and findings of two separate projects, focussing on the issue of admissions within higher education. The first project, a commissioned,  mixed-methods study of a single HE institution examined the way in which widening participation students had their attainment and progression affected during the admissions/clearing stage of entry into HE in relation to the wider student cohort from 2010-13 (quantitative analysis; n=849) (interviews; n=12). Following the set of admissions-related findings that clearing has a statistically negative impact on students’ HE attainment and that faculty differences and pre-HE experiences also played a crucial role in this, the presentation looks to highlight the nuances between those students entering via clearing. The second project looks to supplement these findings by the first project, by accounting for students enrolled onto medical programmes- a cohort that provided not statistically significant findings in the first study regarding WP students’ attainment and progression. Through funding by the MSC Selection Alliance, the use of contextual data by UK medical schools was looked at by Aberdeen and Queen Mary University with the aim of understanding how medical schools used this data to screen students as part of their admissions process as well as any outstanding issues or room for improvement they felt existed. This presentation focuses on findings gathered from telephone interviews that were conducted with 19 UK medical schools highlighting the data used by medical schools and the prospects for a central repository and guidance for the use of contextual data. For both projects a set of wider recommendations and questions to be considered will be provided. 

“I wanted to prove everyone wrong" : A qualitative exploration of non-traditional students' journeys into an elite university  
Tamara Thiele & Debbi Stanistreet, University of Liverpool
Pervasive socio-economic differences in relation to participation in higher education (HE) in the United Kingdom (UK) are particularly prominent in the most prestigious institutions. This study provides insight into how some individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are successful in beating the multiple odds against them and being successfully admitted to one of these institutions. Underpinned by phenomenology, semi-structured interviews were carried out to examine the lived experiences of 13 working-class students throughout their educational trajectories from primary school to a Russell Group university. Individuals discussed their experiences dealing with various sources of disadvantage associated with material hardship, their schooling, peer groups and complex, often unstable familial circumstances, which could have prevented them from doing well at school and going to university. In turn, these factors, which appeared to be strongly linked to their identities, affected how they engaged with education, contributing for instance to their lack of active involvement at school/college, and poor attendance. However, identity-related factors were also found to influence individuals' educational engagement positively, including their motivations for overcoming obstacles, achieving high grades and pursuing HE. Overall, these findings suggest various issues that require particular attention with regard to progression to HE and highlight the need to provide non-traditional students with on-going support whilst at university as the challenges they face do not end when universities open their doors to them.
Constructing ‘spaces’ of student friendship: understanding the socio-spatial co-production of friendship in UK university halls of residences
Mark Holton, University of Plymouth
Through an examination of young UK university students’ experiences of friendship whilst living in shared halls of residences, this paper explores the significant role of friendship in the co-production of shared-living, particularly for mobile students who are interacting [with]in new social and living environments. Friendships are intrinsically tied to relationships with place and processes of place-making and rely on the ability to enact social identities among ‘people like us’ (Fincher & Shaw, 2011). Hence it is important to scrutinise how embodied and collective emotions and interactions may shape friendships and subsequently inform identities, experiences and habits among students. To achieve this the paper explores (1) how student friendship networks are co-produced in and through the spaces of shared accommodation, (2) in what way student friendships inform other social networks that stretch beyond shared spaces and (3) how external friendships are managed and incorporated (or not) back into shared accommodation.

What methodological approaches might be used to research under-represented students in urban settings? 

Daniel Hartley, Diego Bunge &  Daniel Uribe, Queen Mary University, London
Social identities such as class, gender, religion and ethnicity influence aspects of belonging for individual students and impact on the student experience. 
The first paper focuses innovative ways in which under-represented students might be researched which include a Participatory Action Research approach and including students as co-researchers. A key theme here will be developing researcher and practitioner awareness to how different methodological approaches 'construct' the subjects we are researching.
The second paper is quantitative in approach and explores undergraduate student outcomes (degree classification and withdrawals) in 13 schools from two faculties at a London university. It focuses on students who started university in 2011/12 and looks at their final outcome after four consecutive academic years. The research then examines those outcomes against a set of explanatory variables, including gender, age, ethnicity, household income, entry academic achievement, previous school and term time accommodation, believed to be the most influential and selected through a literature review. The analysis uses binary and ordinal logistic regressions to estimate the probability of obtaining first degrees, high marks (1st and 2.1) and withdrawing. Findings show entry qualifications as the strongest predictor for higher attainment and low withdrawals; there are different attainment outcomes according to ethnicity; students reporting zero household income are more likely to score lower grades as well as to withdraw; female students are more likely to achieve higher grades and have less chances to withdraw; students living with their parents are more likely to achieve a first degree as well as to withdraw; and often these differences vary per school.
Audio podcasts from this event are available from this link 

Network: Student Experience
Date(s): Friday, 09 June 2017
Times: 11:00 - 16:00
Location: SRHE 73 Collier Street, London, N1 9BE
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Event Files
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Mansor Rezaian
Higher Education: The issue of admissions Mansor Rezaian, Post-graduate research assistant (QMUL) Email:
Daniel Hartley
Dr Debbi Stanistreet & Dr Tamara Thiele
“I wanted to prove everyone wrong" A qualitative exploration of non-traditional students´ journeys into an elite university
Approaches to quantitative analysis on student performance
Dr Diego Bunge and Dr Daniel Uribe
The spaces of friendship
The spaces of friendship: understanding the socio-spatial co-production of friendship in UK university halls of residences Mark Holton – Plymouth University
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