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How financial adversity can affect the undergraduate student

Students walk passed the Parkinson building out of focus

The hidden costs of how financial adversity can affect the undergraduate student experience

Anna Thew supervised by Nadine Cavigioli and Rachael O’Connor


About the student researcherHeadshot of Anna Thew

My name is Anna, and I am an undergraduate studying at the University of Leeds. My area of study has always been Politics and the Social Sciences however, I recently made the decision to change my program of study to a BSc in Social Policy with Quantitative Methods to try and challenge myself to learn new data skills. As a student from a working-class background, I am deeply passionate about the issues affecting student wellbeing in Leeds. I took a particular interest in Nadine’s current research into race, class, and student sense of belonging. I really enjoyed reading her medium blog piece 'Helping working-class students to feel seen'. The need to ensure we have working-class representation to help build a sense of belonging particularly resonated with me as I have struggled with my own feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome whilst a student at the University of Leeds. I am excited to be able to gain valuable experience working in partnership with an academic, providing an insight into a possible future career in social research.


Project overview

To establish to what extent financial adversity can impact engagement with wider social and extra-curriculum student activities. To establish to what extent financial adversity can affect academic achievement. To explore students' experiences of stigma within our community due to their financial adversity. Create a short survey, distributed to current University of Leeds students who are part of the Plus Programme, a support network for students from backgrounds that are underrepresented at the University. Conduct a focus group, and or series of semi structured interviews with consenting participants of the Plus Program. Published literature review in an undergraduate academic journal article. Presentation at the January 2024 University of Leeds Student Education Conference. The project is focused on understanding the impact the cost-of-living is having on the undergraduate student experience. The experiences of students from underrepresented backgrounds at the University of Leeds. What support and initiatives the University of Leeds is currently offering to students experiencing financial adversity. This project is also focused on stigmatisation and overcoming the social stigma attached to accessing financial support at university, particularly at Russel Group higher educational institutions that inhibit a dominant, elitist culture. As a student from a working-class background, I cannot overstate the importance of this project, particularly at a time when inflation and a rise in the cost-of-living continues to have an adverse effect on the undergraduate experience, particularly for underrepresented students who find it increasingly difficult to navigate an elite campus.