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Belonging and Engaging for Successful Transition

Belonging and Engaging for Successful Transition to Higher Education (BEST)

Alison Voice (Physics and Astronomy)

The project I propose is a cross-disciplinary widening of a project I have been leading in Physics at the University of Leeds over the last two years. To look at how students transition into higher education (HE), and the factors that affect their sense of belonging, and hence their engagement, and how this impacts on their academic success.

This is arguably the biggest issue we all face, to support our new students to flourish.

It dovetails closely with the ‘Student Success’ programme at Leeds which is looking at ways to deliver an inclusive curriculum and address the Black, Asian and minority ethnic awarding gap. It also resonates with the project exploring links between induction, exit and retention which looks at effective induction and the previous project developing resilience.

However the focus of this work is slightly different, aiming to gain a deep understanding of the factors (including student background and curriculum delivery) that impact on belonging and success.

The proposed research takes its lead from the work of Thomas (2012) which concluded ‘It is the human side of higher education that comes first – finding friends, feeling confident and, above all, feeling a part of your course of study and the institution – that is the necessary starting point for academic success’.

Other researchers similarly raise this sense of belonging (Goldring et al., 2018) and the importance of expectation and preparedness (Lowe and Cook, 2003).

A review of student engagement has been undertaken by Kahu (2013) yielding a framework for further research and an exploration of the nature of student transition (Hussey and Smith, 2010) highlights the impact for both students and HE institutions.

Students’ feelings of belonging have a strong influence on National Student Survey, and continuation data is a key metric in Teaching Education Framework. It is thus crucial we all have a clear understanding of the factors affecting how our students perceive they ‘fit in’ to provide the right environment for them to thrive.

For more information contact Alison (