In search of the feeling of ‘belonging’ in Higher Education: undergraduate students transition into Higher Education

Catherine Carroll-Meehan, Kristy Howells

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    Meehan and Howells (2017) in the evaluation of first year students’ transition into university found that the values of ‘being, belonging and becoming’ were important in particular within the first few months and within the first year of university. From our previous work, we reported that three things matter to students: the academic staff they work with, the nature of their academic study and the feeling of belonging. This paper provides a further illumination to our work by reporting on the qualitative data collected in the same study. The study included 530 students from five cohorts over a five-year period. As part of the Student Experience Evaluation instrument, open-ended questions probed students about their early experiences of belonging and transition into university. This original research uses rich data to illuminate the scales and items from previous quantitative data analysis to explore ‘belonging’, triangulated with research from the field. This paper is timely due to increased emphasis placed on learning and teaching with the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework. Student satisfaction is not a simplistic measure and this study articulates the complexity of student belonging in Higher Education.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number0
    Pages (from-to)1376-1390
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
    Issue number10
    Early online date6 Sept 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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