Student Research Experience Placements

Research Placements 2022

Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) in collaboration with the Educational Engagement team are offering 14 students the chance to take part in a supervised research experience placement (REP) throughout the summer of 2022.


This year’s internships are partially delivered through the University’s role in the collaborative project Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education. This aims to address under-representation in postgraduate research study with a focus on UK Black, Asian and minority ethnic students.

REPs offer students at the University the opportunity to work as professional colleagues in partnership with staff, through carrying out independent research. These projects will support the delivery of the Access and Student Success Strategy 2025 with an emphasis on exploring aspects of the student experience through the lens of under-represented groups including, but not limited to People who Experience Racism, mature, care leaver, Access to Leeds and Plus Programme students.

About the placement

Each student researcher will work with a supervisor and possibly a wider research team. LITE will provide support and guidance in pedagogic research and act as a community for the successful student researchers on the programme.

Starting after all teaching, exams and assessments are over, projects will be delivered over a minimum of 6 weeks, but the 210 hours could be carried out part time. The salary for the role is £18,212 per annum, pro rata (Grade 3, £10.01/hr).


Who should apply

Any student, registered on a UG or PGT programme 2022/23, who is interested in researching these areas should apply. Some research experience would be advantageous, but only that which you have gained during the course of your studies is expected. Candidates who can bring personal perspectives from currently under-represented groups at the University ( including, but not limited to People who Experience Racism, mature, care leaver, Access to Leeds and Plus Programme students) are particularly welcome for their contribution to delivering the Access and Student Success Strategy.

We are keen to hear from people who might not usually take these opportunities, and are offering anyone who is interested the chance to discuss the application process with the LITE research support team prior to applying.

We particularly encourage applicants who can bring personal experience of studying at HE as a student from an under-represented group and/or have demonstrable understanding and awareness of the student success agenda and the challenges faced by under-represented groups.

Support in completing your application 

We want to help and support students interested in applying for a student researcher role to submit the best application possible. We are offering the following opportunities to help you complete your application:

  • Finding out about the research placements – online information session. You will have the opportunity to hear from a student who completed a research placement last summer and ask questions about the placement scheme. Wednesday, February 2nd 12.30 – 13.30 (sign up here for a calendar invitation)
  • Applying for a student research experience placement – This interactive webinar will be delivered by the Careers Service and will share guidance and top tips on how to articulate your skills and experiences into the ‘essential criteria’ section of the application form. This session is open to all students interested in applying for the research experience opportunities. Wednesday 16th February 12.00 – 13.00 
  • Help with your application (for UoL students) –There will be 4 sessions in which you will be divided into small breakout groups on Teams. Please have a draft of your application complete before this session as you will be able to discuss specific aspects of your application and to get feedback for improvement before submission. Availability for these small group sessions will be limited to 16 people per session and will be booked on a first come, first served basis. Week beginning Monday 21st February
  • One to one meetings – if you are unable to attend any of the sessions listed, or if you are a student from a university other than Leeds and would like to discuss the placements and your application we would be happy to chat to you – please email to arrange a meeting with someone from the LITE team

How to apply

Read the project details below and select the one you are interested in. (If you would like the details of the projects as a Word document please contact

  1. Sign up for the support sessions
  2. For each of the essential criteria provide evidence that demonstrates you have that skill or quality. Be detailed in your answer, provide the context of the example, what your role was, what you did and what the outcome was and relate to the criteria to show why it is relevant. These answers can be quite detailed.
  3. Bring all your answers together on a word document so that you have a record of what you have written in your application. You will need to refer back to this if you are shortlisted for interview.
  4. Submit your application using the online form (see ‘Apply Here’ below)

Video applications are also being accepted, so if you find it easier to explain your strengths and suitability verbally, then please consider sending us a video telling us about yourself. To submit video application you will need to send your video to, indicating what project you would like to be considered for.

The Careers Centre can also offer support in helping you with your application.

Project Details

PLEASE NOTE: Projects 1,2,3,4,8 and 13 are only open to applicants who are students at the University of Leeds

1. Academic personal tutoring and impact on belonging

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

Project Supervisor: Simon Lightfoot, School of Politics and International Studies

Project Overview: The project will explore the impact of academic personal tutoring (APT) on students’ sense of belonging. The project will explore the impact of both one-to-one tutoring and group tutorials and will be underpinned by a theory of change model.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to:

  • work with senior stakeholders on a research project
  • present research findings to wide range of interested parties.
  • develop research and communication skills
  • develop an understanding of, and experience of the theory of change evaluation technique

Project Activity: The successful candidate will be involved in delivering the following activities:

  1. Producing a literature review on APT and sense of belonging
  2. Conducting / facilitating focus groups/interviews with APTs and tutees to understand their experiences
  3. Interviewing relevant LITE fellows/ project leaders about their projects

Essential Criteria: 

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

  1. Experience of being a UG tutee at the University of Leeds
  2. Experience of carrying out research
  3. Able to work well with a range of stakeholders
  4. Keen interest in student wellbeing issues
  5. Insights into the experiences of under-represented students

2. Authenticity, belonging and intersectionality

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

Project Supervisor: Femi Owolade, Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence

Project Overview: Being in a disadvantaged, marginalised or under-represented position due to feeling of otherness because of one’s race, gender, class, or other intersecting identities, can negatively affect a student’s expression of authentic self and sense of belonging within the higher education community. This project explores students’ self-concept of own abilities to be authentic and belong to the University of Leeds. Informed by the Leeds Access 2025 strategy to create a university space where all students belong and, in an effort to make a meaningful contribution to the fifth pillar (‘Enablers’) by infusing opportunities to centre student voice, the project introduces a listening–based approach to create psychological safe spaces and capture students’ lived experiences through story–sharing, reflection, and the creation of artefacts.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to:

  • work with a diverse, inter disciplinary project team to carry out independent research
  • Contribute own ideas to a project of great significance to the University of Leeds 2025 strategy.
  • contribute to the scholarship of the overall project as co-research, whereby contributions will be formally recognised through authorship and other forms of recognitions.
  • develop and improve transferable skillset in relation but not limited to, effective communication, time management, critical analysis, and academic writing.

Project Activity: The student research experience placement will support background research for the LITE project on ‘Exploring Student Authentic Self – Expression and Sense of Belonging at the University of Leeds’. Through a desktop study the placement will carry out a systematic literature review of existing research and apply an intersectional approach to explore the connections between identities and experiences of authenticity and belonging. The placement holder will be expected to consider how the overlap of identities such as race, class or gender can impact students’ ability to be their authentic self and to belong to their modules, degree program, university, and the wider higher education community. Research activities including literature review, data collection and research analysis.

Essential Criteria:

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

      1. Demonstrable understanding of the lived experience of minoritized groups within higher education
      2. Ability to use initiative and apply independent thinking to carrying out research
      3. Ability to demonstrate inquisitive and critical thinking skills
      4. Effective communication skills
      5. Good organisation skills

3. Exploring the colonial history of the University of Leeds - Part 2

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

Project Supervisor: Iyiola Solanke, School of Law

Project overview: This project will support the University in meeting its commitment made in its (draft) Decolonisation Principles and supports the delivery of the Equality and Inclusion Race Framework and Access and Student Success Strategy 2025.

Working with one of the University’s Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion this project will build on, and take forward work carried out through a student research placement in 2021.

The successful applicant will develop

  1. skills in online research/ identification of relevant scholarship
  2. skills in summarising material – distilling key arguments and methods
  3. skills in categorisation of materials according to contents
  4. skills in archival research/ identification of original documents (primary resources)

Project activity: The successful candidate will be involved in the following activity:

  • Creation of a literature review and annotated bibliography
  • Identification of primary materials in Leeds and elsewhere
  • Production of a 5000 word summary of the materials found
  • Identification of research gaps and questions

Essential criteria:

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

  1. An interest in history
  2. Demonstrable understanding of the decolonising agenda
  3. Ability to work effectively independently (& remotely)
  4. Ability to use initiative
  5. A good level of IT Skills

4. Disability, Disablement and the curriculum

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

Project Supervisor: Tom Campbell, School of Sociology and Social Policy

Project Overview: Whilst disability is firmly on the agenda in UK higher education, it is mainly considered in the context of the legal necessity of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate the access needs of disabled students. Disability itself does not always have the same centrality in our curricula.  Disability is a central element of the human condition and we should ensure that our students leave their studies with us with a subject specific understanding of disability and the disabling society we live in.

Given the University’s central role in establishing Disability Studies as a research field through CDS (Centre for Disability Studies we are well placed to explore how the big ideas of the Disabled Peoples Movement and insights from Disability Studies should affect our curriculum design and delivery. Drawing upon successful efforts to argue for decolonization of teaching and learning, the project proposes that centering the perspectives and ideas of disability studies and the disabled peoples movement will enrich all students education and improve disabled students sense of belonging to our University community.

The key objectives of this REP project are to conduct a focus group with disabled students exploring how key ideas from Disability Studies could be incorporated into their programmes of study.  To produce a research output drawing upon this data that analyses how disability could be a more centralised across a variety of different degree programmes.

The project will provide the successful applicant with the opportunity:

  • to experience designing qualitative research, carrying out focus groups and analysing data;
  • to develop knowledge of Disability Studies;
  • to contribute to the development of a vision of how the values and insights of Disability Studies can be mainstreamed across higher education

Project Activity: The successful candidate will:

  1. Conduct a focus group with disabled students exploring how key ideas from Disability Studies could be incorporated into their programmes of study.
  2. Produce a research output drawing upon this data that analyses how disability could be a more centralised across a variety of different degree programmes.

Essential Criteria:

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

  1. Interest in conducting qualitative social research in a higher education setting;
  2. Understanding of some of the issues relevant to carrying out qualitative social research;
  3. An interest in disability and disability studies;
  4. Good organisational skills;
  5. The ability to work independently and to manage their own time.

5. A reverse mentoring exploration of academic personal tutoring in partnership with ‘under-represented’ students

Project Supervisor: Rachael O-Connor, School of Law

Project Overview: The work undertaken during this REP supports Rachael O’Connor’s LITE fellowship project.

The project stems from an institutional need to better understand and hear under-represented students’ experiences and to consider how academic personal tutoring (APT) policy may be developed in line with aims stated in the University’s Access and Student Success strategy.

The primary objective is to improve APT practice stemming from the voices and experiences of under-represented students, via the vehicle of reverse mentoring through which students mentor members of staff. The project seeks to ensure that APT supports everyone in our community.

Further objectives are to assess how tutor/tutee roles and supportive technology (PebblePad and StREAM) may be developed in light of findings from the reverse mentoring project.

As part of this project, the REP objectives are to:

  • Explore and understand the term ‘under-represented’ both within the University of Leeds and in other institutions through both primary and secondary research, bringing in voices of both students and staff;
  • Analyse different approaches to academic personal tutoring both within and outside the University from the perspective of under-represented students, including the use of supportive technologies;
  • Support the REP supervisor (Rachael) in finalising and refining the reverse mentoring project and associated materials to take place in academic year 22/23.

The research is important because it seeks to identify practical steps towards achieving some of the University’s strategic goals, centred around student voices and seeking a sustainable approach to embedding under-represented students’ voices into APT practice. The project seeks to empower students and staff as active decision makers and change agents, promoting sense of belonging and autonomy.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to:

  • Improve communication, team work, project management and research skills
  • Experience of engaging with under-represented/minoritised communities, as well as experience of engaging with senior people and managing power imbalances/conflicts
  • Improve writing, analytical and presentation skills through the showcasing of work undertaken during the project
  • develop reflective practice skills which can be used in future work/roles
  • Contribute towards development of a large project designed to enhance student experience and develop University wide policy on academic personal tutoring

Project Activity: The successful candidate will:

  1. Undertake independent research via publicly available sources relating to: (i) the term ‘under-represented’ in the higher education context; and (ii) academic personal tutoring practice/policies and supportive technologies, with a particular focus on approaches specific to under-represented students or approaches designed to be inclusive/promote sense of belonging
  2. Conduct informal focus group type discussions with interested students and staff on the topic of feeling under-represented at University and connections with academic personal tutoring
  3. Engage in weekly reflective discussions with the REP supervisor (Rachael) regarding the progress of the project and learnings/findings
  4. Write up findings in a short report in the final week of the REP and delivery of a short presentation to the REP supervisor and other interested staff members working in this area to support in understanding what has been discovered/learned through the REP

Essential Criteria:

  1. Identify as ‘under-represented’ within the University or their School/Faculty
  2. Passionate about improving student experience and University culture for all
  3. Proactive and self-motivated/driven
  4. Respectful and confident communicator
  5. Evidence of good research skills/experience

6. Impact of inclusive assessment on degree awarding gaps

Project Supervisor: Alice O’Grady, School of Performance and Cultural Industries

Project Overview: Degree awarding gaps persist at the University and are particularly significant for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students as well as mature learners. One of the many factors contributing to the awarding gap is students’ experience of assessment and includes whether some types of assessment privilege some more than others or how students are supported to understand what’s required of them.

The University has been implementing ​a baseline standard of inclusive learning and teaching and the onset of the pandemic prompted significant changes to the design of assessment methods.

This project will explore the wider sector research on this agenda, undertake qualitative research to understand students’ experiences and review the extent to which changes have contributed to progress in closing awarding gaps.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to:

  •  to develop research skills,
  • find out more about postgraduate research opportunities
  • contribute to institutional strategic priorities
  • develop a network of staff and students across the University

Project activity: the project will involve:

  1. Desk-based literature review
  2. qualitative and quantitative research

Essential Criteria:

  1. Interest in research with a desire to develop skills /experience
  2. Communication skills
  3. Time management skills
  4. Interest in access and student success in higher education

7. Institutional engagement with refugees and asylum seekers

Project Supervisor: Mel Prideaux, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science

Project Overview: As part of wider institutional work towards University of Sanctuary status (, this placement will provide an opportunity to research current work at the University of Leeds to support refugees and asylum seeker engagement with the institution and especially educational opportunities. As well as more well known areas such as Sanctuary Scholarships the project will also look at a range of other areas including volunteering, student projects, galleries and cultural activity.

The project outcomes will support the case for Sanctuary status by producing a report identifying areas of good practice, gaps in provision and opportunities for improvement. The report recommendations will be of strategic significance to ongoing work in this area.

The successful applicant will develop their skills in:

  • develop practical skills and experience in interviewing, data gathering, and report writing, with training and support as appropriate and necessary.
  • develop their interpersonal and communication skills as well as project and time management with the support of the project supervisor.
  • Build knowledge and understanding of the experience of refugees and asylum seekers and the university offer and activity will also develop over the project confidence in this will lead to an ability to present the findings and recommendations of the project.

Project activity: The tasks will be further defined in consultation with the student but may include:

  1. interviews with current students from refugee or asylum seeking backgrounds, with university staff who are engaged in work with refugees and asylum seekers, with local specialist organisations, and university leaders.
  2. There may be some literature research to support the interviews, as well as some engagement with relevant data.

Training will be provided as necessary. 

Essential Criteria: 

  1. Ability to work independently and also as an effective member of a team
  2. Ability to communicate effectively
  3. Ability to think creatively and analytically about a range of material
  4. Ability to identify development needs
  5. Ability to respond positively to feedback

8. Learning analytics and student success

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

Project Supervisors: Brownen Swinnerton, School of Education and James Pickering, School of Medicine

Project overview: The University has recently launched  the StREAM@Leeds Learning Analytics system as part of the refreshed approach to LeedsforLife. Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for the purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs. The implementation of a learning analytics system at the University has 3 core objectives:

  • Personal analytics: the use of learning analytics to enhance academic personal tutoring with staff and students having access to the StREAM@Leeds system to understand individual student’s engagement;
  • Curriculum analytics: the use of anonymised, aggregated analytics to enable key stakeholders to make informed decisions on the delivery of programmes across the institution in relation to engagement and use of digital education systems;
  • Cohort analytics: the use of anonymised, aggregated analytics to enable exploration of the engagement, experience and outcomes for a range of cohorts, including under-represented groups including but not limited to BAME, mature, Access to Leeds and Plus Programme students.

As part of this research project we are offering a Student Research Experience Placement (SREP) to work with the project  team to explore cohort analytics. We are particularly interested in the extent to which cohort analytics can help us to better understand the experience of, and as a result, contribute to the success of students from a wide range of backgrounds, in particular students from under-represented groups.

The team will be carrying out interrogation of large learning analytics datasets to explore patterns of engagement by cohort to answer the following research questions:

  • Can cohort analytics help to uncover barriers to success? Which cohorts are most affected?
  • What interventions are being put in place and are they having an impact on awarding gaps and non-continuation rates of those cohorts most affected?

These questions will initially be explored through quantitative data analysis. However, to support this data we would like to enrich our findings through qualitative data collection with students, through focus groups. The REP holder will work with the team to develop and carry out these focus groups, as well as to analyse the data from the groups to feed into the overall project findings.

The placement will have a number of developmental benefits for the REP holder:

  • Gain experience of working with an interdisciplinary cross-institutional research team;
  • Gain experience of planning and carrying out data collection with peers via focus groups;
  • Develop an understanding of the ethical issues around primary research;
  • Gain experience of analysing qualitative data;
  • Gain experience of writing up a research project and its findings;
  • Gain an understanding of the relationship between quantitative and qualitative research methods;
  • Gain an understanding of how University strategies and policies are informed by evidenced-based research;
  • Broaden their knowledge and understanding of learning analytics more generally.

Project Activity: The REP holder will be required to engage with the broader research project to understand the context of cohort analytics, and the issues around Access and Student Success, which will involve reading background material (university documents as well as academic literature) and talking to key stakeholders.

The REP holder will work with Dr Swinnerton to:

  • develop a focus group protocol;
  • plan focus groups;
  • recruit students for focus groups including developing and disseminating comms to students, liaising with student reps etc.;
  • ensure all ethical issues are adhered to, by developing relevant documentation such as participant information sheets and consent forms and disseminating them to participants;
  • carry out focus groups with students either online or on campus, depending on conditions ;
  • transcribe the data;
  • analyse the transcripts using thematic analysis;
  • be involved in reporting the findings to the rest of the team and in a written document.

It is not expected that the REP holder will have prior experience of all of these tasks and will receive training and supervision from Dr Swinnerton. The level of training and autonomy of the REP holder will depend on their prior experience.

Essential Criteria:

This project is only open to University of Leeds students

  1. A strong interest in, and understanding of, the university experience of students from under-represented groups;
  2. An interest in the use of student data to inform the student experience;
  3. The capability to collect qualitative data via focus groups with peers;
  4. Some understanding of the role that research evidence plays in developing University strategy and policy;
  5. Excellent organisational time management skills and a general willingness and enthusiasm to learn new skills.

9. Mature student awarding gaps

Project Supervisor: Helen Bowman, Lifelong Learning Centre

Project Overview: In the Lifelong Learning Centre (LLC) we work with groups who are under-represented in HE and specifically engage with mature students to facilitate and support access into, and successful progression through, the University of Leeds. We are a multi-disciplinary centre offering part time and full time courses targeted at mature students. We also run Foundation Years which attract mature student applicants. We provide student support, advice & guidance and skills support to undergraduate, home, mature students across the University to complement provision from the Learner Development team in the library and Education Engagement (EE). Through our teaching activity and our service offer for this particular group we are well placed to investigate mature student experiences across the University.

There is a persistent mature student awarding gap at the University of Leeds, which reflects the national picture across the sector. The University’s Access and Participation Plan (APP) target PTS_4, is to ‘Close the unexplained gap between proportion of mature and young full-time, first degree students attaining a 2:1 or above from 12.1% in 17/18 to 6.8% in 24/25’. In a recent report by Strategy & Planning it was identified that although the number of first and 2:1 degrees being awarded has increased for all students in the first year of Covid 19, this increase was experienced more by young students than mature students and the initial closing of the gap has stalled in the second year of the pandemic.

This research project will aim to explore the awarding gap for mature students through student, graduate and staff perspectives. It will take a qualitative case study approach to consider the following research questions:

  1. How do the experiences of students who have achieved a first or 2:1 differ from those who receive 2:2s and below?
  2. What activities do students and staff identify as contributing to final awards (both positive and negative), beyond academic work?

In this research project we will develop a small number of case studies to understand staff, student and graduate perceptions of mature students’ experiences, which will inform specific, targeted interventions in the future.

The role holder will work closely with the Deputy Director (Partnerships) in the Lifelong Learning Centre and weekly meetings will help to maintain the pace of work necessary for a short project, whilst also facilitating communication and ideas development. There will also be opportunities to connect with a number of other staff in different schools and faculties and to draw on expertise available, through regular meetings with Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) and other staff and student stakeholders across the University.

Project Activity: The project holder will work with the Deputy Director (Partnerships) and in consultation with staff in Educational Engagement to develop and pilot the research interview approach, the process of analysis and to refine the final format of the research outputs. The role holder will draw on the work of the LLC and the Student Success Officers (SSOs) to identify current activities within specific schools which target mature students and key staff. Contacts within the LLC and the SSOs will help the role holder to identify communication channels to recruit research participants. The role holder will also liaise with the Mature Student Advisory Board (through the LLC) to share the research objectives and outcomes and to help promote the research within the student body. The role holder will recruit research participants:

1) to develop case studies of mature students’ experiences, including those who graduated in the past 3 years.

2) to collect staff perceptions of approaches and activities that help and hinder degree outcomes.

Essential Criteria: 

  1. an understanding of the contributions mature students make to the University
  2. an appreciation of the diverse strengths and needs of mature students
  3. recognition of the progress made by students in achieving all degree outcomes
  4. ability to take initiative
  5. excellent verbal and written communication skills

10. Mentoring to support the experience of racially minoritised students within medical schools: a rapid review

Project supervisors: Louise Bryant and Bridgette Bewick, School of Medicine

Project Overview: Recent figures indicate that around 29% of medical students now come from racially minoritised ethnic backgrounds, with a recent 58% increase of students of Black heritage ( At Leeds Medical School over 40% of our students come from racially minoritised backgrounds.

Within the NHS and clinical academic workforce there is a lack of visible role models from these backgrounds at senior levels, especially women and those of Black heritage. This lack of visible role-models within medical schools and on clinical placement is reported by racially minoritised students as impacting negatively on their sense of belonging at university and within Medicine as a profession.

It has been proposed that students who are racially minoritised would benefit from mentoring by a senior role model (clinician, former student) with a similar background and help increase their sense of belonging. Mentoring is frequently promoted as one way of helping to address inequalities in the workplace, especially those relating to gender and ethnicity, though research within the medical school at Leeds has identified there is a lack of high quality evidence to support its impact on reducing these inequalities (House, Bryant et al 2020).

There a number of questions that remain to be explored. It is not known whether such mentorship would meaningfully improve the sense of belonging of students, although they may benefit in other ways. It is not known whether or not mentoring by similarly experienced clinical mentors would be feasible given the lack of staff with these experiences and the calls on the time for those working in the NHS. It is important to be mindful that these clinicians are also likely to be affected by structural racism within health services and the medical profession.

This project would deliver a rapid review of available resources to start to answer these questions and also identify important avenues for further research or recommendations for considering the implementation of such a mentoring scheme.

This is a fantastic opportunity for an enthused student to engage in purposeful, impactful research that will inform the university sector’s ongoing conversations on how best to disrupt racialised marginalisation within medical education. In addition the REP holder will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop skills in rapid reviewing, an increasingly used review methodology within healthcare and policy research
  • Work with academics leading School and University level initiatives on sense of belonging and equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Produce a written report that has the potential to influence the experiences of students within our University and other medical schools across the UK

Project Activity:

With supervision, the REP holder would conduct a ‘Rapid Review’ of existing sources including published and unpublished reports reporting on mentoring of students from racialised minorities within medical schools or university departments, for example as part of a positive action approach. Tasks would include

  1. Identifying the review questions
  2. Defining search terms
  3. Identifying potential sources of literature and reports
  4. Extracting key information from the sources
  5. Summarising findings in a report
  6. Presenting the findings

Essential Criteria:

  1. Shows initiative
  2. Highly organised
  3. Works independently
  4. Shows genuine enthusiasm for the project
  5. Excellent communication skills

11. Exploring belonging through qualitative research

Project Supervisor: Alison Voice, School of Physics

Project Overview: Arriving at university can be overwhelming for some students. What will it be like?  Am I good enough?  Will I fit in?  Will I make good friends? This is a longitudinal project gathering data from students in 7 very different schools at Leeds (both arts and science) to look for key factors influencing their sense of belonging, engagement with their learning community and their academic success. Surveys have been used at key points in the year to obtain students’ views on how they settle into university and engage with their learning. Early analysis has highlighted the particular needs of under-represented students and the REP will help us understand these more by analysing qualitative text responses. The overall aim of the project is to inform and influence the teaching and support provided to students to enhance their sense of wellbeing, enjoyment and success.

The successful candidate will gain a wide range of research and professional skills that are not only useful in this project but in their future studies and employment. For example:

  1. Working in collaboration with staff outside the REPS’s usual academic area, thus expanding their experience of how different students and disciplines approach study, engagement and learning.
  2. Sharing ideas from their own experience, to enlighten other disciplines.
  3. Gaining advanced skills in NVIVO software to analyse text, which will also be useful in the REP’s own final year project
  4. Appreciating the ethical issues involved in anonymous reporting of research findings.
  5. Accessing research literature, making decisions about what is relevant to the project, organising and distilling key themes,
  6. Producing attractive and informative reports to clearly convey findings.

Project Activity: The REP will undertake qualitative thematic analysis of open text responses from students across all schools participating in the project. Use of NVIVO software will allow easy identification of themes and sub-themes, to help tease out the issues faced by different categories of students. (Training and support in using this software will be provided.)

A literature search will be conducted and NVIVO used to categorise the themes relevant to the findings. Based on the above analysis and the literature the REP will write a report and create PowerPoint presentation to explain the results in a manner suitable for dissemination to staff in the relevant schools, and wider audiences. Through this, creative solutions can be suggested to support and enhance the sense of belonging and engagement of new students with their learning community as they enter university.

Essential Criteria:

  1. Organised approach
  2. Care and attention to detail
  3. Willingness to suggest ideas as well as carry out tasks as instructed
  4. Research skills and an understanding of the importance of objective reporting (report what the research shows, not what you wish it showed).
  5. Able to present creatively (written and PowerPoint)

12. The psychology of online learning

Project Supervisor: Gillian Proctor, School of Healthcare

Project Overview: This project is about maximising the engagement with and inclusivity of online education environments from a psychological perspective. It fits within the current university focus on values, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging. It offers a valuable contribution to the university’s Digital Transformation strategy to enhance the student experience and inclusivity online.

This project is about how the online environment shapes our self-awareness and relating to others: our authenticity, identity, sense of connection, engagement, , belonging and consequent ability to learn.  Factors such as telepresence (Turkle 2004), self-consciousness (of own image), unnatural frontality, bonding and body visibility, implications of no videos on trust and engagement, the online disinhibition effect, abrupt transitions, the blurring of public and private space and digital inequalities are crucial to navigate in ways which promote inclusion and belonging for all students and staff. This would facilitate deeper awareness of relating and learning online and enhance confidence, as was demonstrated in the evaluation of several pilot seminars earlier this year.

One example of many is how presence (Balick 2014) and interaction online is different from in person. For example, many staff feedback the difficulties in teaching students online who don’t put videos on. TEQSA (2020) found that many students said there was a lack of academic interaction and engagement. Furthermore, research shows that students who are already marginalised are likely to be further disadvantaged with online teaching, (Bettinger & Loeb 2017). Yet, student engagement cannot be measured by any crude metric such as having a camera on; diverse students engage in diverse ways (Cavigioli 2018). Nevertheless, both staff and students could benefit from clearer guidance on this issue.

This project will really demonstrate the holder’s ability to research and present literature.  Critical analysis of literature skills will be developed. Creative presentation skills will be enhanced. It will produce a clear output which will have much relevance and potential impact beyond the life of the project and could be publishable.

The subject of online learning is one of considerable relevance and interest currently.

  • Project Activity: The holder will conduct a literature review on the factors and paradoxes relevant to learning and teaching online.
  • The relevant factors will be introduced to the postholder and guidance given for how to conduct literature reviews.
  • Summaries of relevant literature will be produced for each factor or paradox to be presented at research groups to be conducted later in this research project.
  • Creativity in how to present these to maximise interest and engagement will be appreciated, eg through videos, podcasts, animations etc.

Essential Criteria:

  1. Ability to organise and systematise information
  2. Interest in and enthusiasm to think about the psychological factors of relating online
  3. Creative approach to communicating information and interest to develop these skills
  4. Self-motivation and drive to work autonomously and seek support and supervision when appropriate
  5. Literature searching skills

13. Welcome, Induction and Transition and the impact on student success (2 roles available)


Project Supervisor: Anne Tallontire, School of Earth and Environment

Project Overview: In April 2020 the University decided to create an institutional online student induction resource for September, in a project known as WIT20 as part of the transition to online learning as a Covid-19 adaptation measure.  These resources and our new institutional approach to Welcome, Induction and Transition (WIT) were evaluated.  Insights from the analysis of which resources were most used by students and by which categories of student fed into the design of resources for and overall approach to Welcome, Induction and Transition in 2021 (WIT21).

This project builds on from the evaluations undertaken for WIT20 complements data analytics from the online resources and interviews with staff to better understand how WIT21 has supported students from all backgrounds.  We are interested in students’ views of our new online resources (e.g. Leeds and You on PebblePad and the open access resource Here and Now), and also their experience of the welcome communications from the University and activities at School level – both online and face-to-face.  In particular, the project will seek to better understand the experience of WIT21 for students from disadvantaged groups, including students from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds or from neighbourhoods with a low rates of participation in Higher Education.  We are also interested in understanding how welcome and induction practices have changed since the institutional project began and what students’ experiences of this have been.

The project will provide the successful applicants with the opportunity:

  1. to develop valuable research skills that will prove useful for future research work, such as your final year project
  2. to gain a valuable insight into the what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to support students
  3. to develop communication skills by working with staff and students,
  4. to enhance your report writing and presentation skills

Project Activity: This project will involve interviews and focus groups with staff and students, and result in a short report summarising key findings and recommendations for the institutional welcome resources and good practice at school level.

Essential Criteria: 

  1. have experience of being a taught student at the University of Leeds
  2. An interest in enhancing the student experience and student success
  3. Experience of collecting qualitative and/or quantitative data
  4. Good analytical skills, including handling different kinds of data in a systematic way
  5. Ability to communicate with different types of audiences/stakeholders (including written reports)