An investigation into student sense of belonging at a post-1992 university

Curran, John G. M. (2016) An investigation into student sense of belonging at a post-1992 university. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This study explores students’ sense of belonging through the accounts of nineteen undergraduate students studying at an inner city post-1992 university. Participants' accounts were obtained through semi-structured interviews conducted at three key points during their first year of study. The resulting analysis is influenced by Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, field, capital and knowledge of the rules of the game, which are used to explore the impact of student dispositions on their experiences and perceptions of belonging.

The study shows that university can be a particularly challenging place for students from non-traditional backgrounds and it questions the view that belonging is about individual student commitment to institutional values. Belonging is conceptualised in a more nuanced multi-dimensional manner reflecting institutional habitus such as a 'one size fits all' approach to both induction and social provision.

The study argues that the onus is on the university to overcome inherent inequalities making belonging easier by encouraging student voice; providing care through help, support and guidance; examining the benefits of small group teaching and paying particular attention to the needs of clearing students. Further, strategies built on unproblematised views of elearning and the independent learner need to be reviewed as participants, especially nontraditional students, articulated both as evidence that the university did not validate them as individuals.

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