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“…If the college don’t push it forward, how are people going to get to know each other, you just don’t...”


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Conference presentation at the HEA Annual Conference 2017
Generation TEF: Teaching in the spotlight
Universities have increasing numbers of students enrolling for study who for financial, cultural or other reasons remaining in the family home. Across the UK the stay-at-home student population is estimated to rise to 50% by 2020. Exploring the experiences of new students across 3 London universities, our data indicated that 10-15% of our sample failed to develop a sense of belonging (ssob) and were most at risk of drop-out. Our research offers new insights into the lives of these students. The object of this session is to create different approaches to enabling integration of these student into their new environment.

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“…If the college don’t push it forward, how are people going to get to know each other, you just don’t...”

  2. 2. The research  Focus: Challenging the accepted home-university model of transition  Arguing that: as with stay-at-home holidays, or ‘staycations’, of such crucial importance to the tourism industry, so stay-at- home students are vital to higher education and the term utilised here is ‘stayeducation’.  Sample: full-time, first year students (attending different universities) who live at home (within the greater london area) with partners or families  Method: biographic narrative interview method (BNIM)
  3. 3. Background  The researchers have all been employees at universities in London for a number of years.  They have all attended training in BNIM with tom wengraf  This is an ongoing project with other colleagues, which has resulted in a previous quantitative paper (International journal of management education 2014), which estimated that 10-15% of students failed to develop a sense of belonging when engaging with University life, and that these students were most at risk of leaving the course.  This section of the research concentrates on the qualitative perspective (VIA BNIM)
  4. 4. Challenging the accepted home-university model of transition and focusing on ‘stayeducation’  Concepts of academic and social engagement (Tinto 1975) are linked with strategies for successful retention (Thomas 2012), and Chow & Healy (2008) write of students leaving home to inhabit the university environment and develop new relationships with cohabitees.  Our empirical work considers the differences in experiencing the university environment through The concept of ‘stayeducation’ which acknowledges the significant influences of family and community on the student experience, particularly for those who continue to inhabit the family home.
  5. 5. Why BNIM? The qualitative perspective  The quantitative survey (n=1346) left key questions unanswered:  what was happening in the lives of students as they transitioned from home to University?  In particular, our study was interested in those who remained living in the family home.  In the UK around 25% of students remain in their family home; a trend replicated widely across international contexts (Wojtas, 2014); and set to rise in the UK to 50% by 2020 (Taylor, 2011).  BNIM draws out the narrative of lives (wengraf 2001)  Bnim approach supported a single question for the start of each interview (Single Question to initiate narrative – SQUIN)
  6. 6. The sample profiles and cross case analysis 1 Source images 1,2,3 – see reference list
  7. 7. Isi (attending a pre-1992 research intensive university)  Isi is a young working class Asian man with He has a sharp and combative narrative style.  His life history unfolds trauma, drug misuse and hospital admission.  University is a way of escaping his past life, and reinventing himself, as well as a strategy for avoiding the local gym, where his troubles began.  He is looking for new spaces to inhabit, however, this is difficult as he still needs to live at home. They don’t know I’m from a council estate but they never make me feel like it but it’s just you get that inner feeling, it’s just instinct. It’s something you can’t control…It’s not something coming directly to you, it’s just something that you developed inside yourself from coming from such a poor background and building yourself up to here.
  8. 8. Paola (attending a post-1992 vocationally focused university)  Paola is a 27 year old, married Brazilian woman who lives with her husband.  She frequently labels herself as a mature student.  Her decision to study at her university was made on limited information, based in part on its location in the prestigious Square Mile in the financial district. So they are really not interested…you see the girls around looking at the bags and they want to buy bags and shoes. How many shoes do you have? I’ve been into that already you know. I’ve lived that already and now I am more focused.
  9. 9. Kuura (attending a post-1992 vocationally focused university)  Kuura is a young female of African/Gambian parents.  She presents as very articulate and self-assured, with clear views on her academic journey/career plans. She came from a school with low levels of academic attainment.  Despite her excellent grades Kuura elects to attend a post 1992 institution of lower status than others for which she was qualified. So when people hear about that school, they don’t really expect anything good out of that place. I got like 5 A stars, 6 As and and 2 Es. And nobody believed me, even my brother was like you little liar, you couldn't have got that.
  10. 10. Cross case analysis A: Similarities of Kuura and Paola contrasted with Isi KuuRA & PAOLA - Belonging and family/friends  Both women share a desire for the warmth of family life.  Kuura in the present and Paola echoing back to her Brazilian roots.  These family and social influences militate against them making positive choices  Kuura sees her university as replicating the familiarity and comfort of her family.  Paola is disappointed with her choice. She decided to go to university after working in the City.  Both women are very engaged with their studies but exhibit different manifestations of belonging.  What unites them is a sense of their unexplored potential and “little lives” - lives that might have been different had they made different choices. ISI - In contrast…..  Isi despite a chaotic and confused life history, and working class roots has a ‘big’ sense of life and expectations.  He has sought out good mentoring and guidance in terms of his university selection and future career.  He recognises the limitations of his patchy family support and is keen to draw a line under his ‘council estate’ upbringing.  He is pained by his realisation that if he goes back to his community and his friends he will be unable to fulfil his ambitions for a “big life”.  This innate association of his past being wasted coincides with Bourdieu’s concept that ‘self-improvement …presupposes a personal cost’ (Bourdieu, 1983, 244).
  11. 11. Cross case analysis B: Similarities of Kuura and Isi contrasted with Paola Kuura and Isi - Belonging and social class/community  Both Kuura and Isi share an acute awareness of social class and their community roots.  This can be seen from Kuura’s discomfort at a public prize giving when she realised other students were from private schools.  When starting at university Isi does not mention his council estate origins to any of his new friends.  Both are keen to make friends but their background plays out in very different ways.  For Kuura her narration is one where her university life tumbles out and mixes with her home and community life.  Isi by contrast sees his new friends as a way of building networks for the future. He is very aware of the social status of the contexts within which he makes friends and keeps them separate from his home community. Paola – in contrast…  Paola has no UK community affiliations.  She is concerned with the status of her institution, which she compares unfavourable with universities in Brazil, and does not see herself as belonging.  The natural group formation of ‘collective preferences’ (Dixon and Durrheim, 2004) cannot accommodate students such as Paola. This is due to the limited number of peers she feels a close connection to at her chosen institution.
  12. 12. Cross case analysis c: Similarities of Paola and Isi contrasted with Kuura Paola and Isi - Belonging and ethnic boundaries  Reay et al. (2010) state the importance of ‘cross-racial interactions’ for higher sense of belonging on campus. When Isi narrates his university experience he expresses a continuous awareness of cultural, ethnic and class distinctions/boundaries.  Similarly Paola’s expresses feelings of alienation from groups on the basis of ethnicity reflecting feelings of isolation. Kuura – in contrast…  Kuura is comfortable and integrated into the multi-cultural university environment.  Hurtado et al (2007) state the importance of ‘cross-racial interactions’ for higher sense of belonging on campus.
  13. 13. Main points of the qualitative research  This study suggests a reframing of contemporary thinking about sense of belonging and transition to encompass a set of relationships, often ignored, which to our students are significant i.e. family, friends and community.  What emerges is the importance of considering the ways in which social relationship develop (or not ) for stayeducation students particularly in the absence of shared the physical living spaces highlighted as key by to this process by Chow and Healey (2008).  Everything these students experience is coloured by the life they lived before, and which they continue to return to at the end of each day. The implications suggest that universities need to be more responsive to home and community factors.  This might encompass further research into the role of family and old friends in transition; reconstituting university spaces to enable a different set of relationships to emerge, social rather than educational.  This could lead to a reframing of the classroom and university space as one in which affords these students opportunities to develop new social relationships and support, similar to those living on campus.
  14. 14. You can adjust yourself to the [university] environment but there’s only so much you can do … because you have to go back to your old environment from where you came initially and where you spend most of your life…So getting used to [university] will be tough…
  15. 15. References Bourdieu, P. (1983). “The Forms of Capital.” in Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education , edited by J. Richardson, 241-258. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Chow, K., M. Healey.(2008). Place attachment and place identity: First-year undergraduates making the transition from home to university. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 28 (4): 362-372. Kane, S, Chalcraft, D & Volpe, G, (2014) 'Notions of belonging: First year, first semester higher education students enrolled on business or economics degree programmes', The International Journal of Management Education, 12 (2), 193-201. Reay, D., G. Croziers, and J. Clayton, (2010). ‘Fitting in’ or ‘standing out’ working class students in UK higher education, British Educational Research Journal, 36(1):107-124. Pokorny, H., Holley, D. & Kane, S.(2016), 'Commuting, transitions and belonging: the experiences of students living at home in their first year at university', High Education (2016). doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0063-3 Taylor, R. (2011). University cities thrive on students. The Guardian. April 18. Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: Final report from the what works? Student retention and success programme Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research, Review of Educational Research 45 (1): 89 -125. Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative Research Interviewing: biographic narrative and semi-structured method, Sage Publications, London Wojtas, O.(2014). Making sure the locals feel part of the community, Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey, 15 May. Image 1 Image 2 Image 3