Crucial to the Student Success (EDI) Project is its commitment to original research. In seeking to improve success rates for students, whatever their learner characteristics and/or background, the project has been developing an evidenced knowledge base about the social and structural causes of attainment gaps. It is crucial for us to improve our understanding of these gaps so that we can put in place effective measures that give all of our students every opportunity to fulfil their academic potential.
The project research team employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. During the project’s first phase, it has conducted two large-scale student surveys, more than 60 interviews with Kent undergraduates, and interviews with academic and support staff. The team has also worked in partnership with academic schools to conduct case study research interviews and focus groups. In this time, research has focused principally on the following themes:
- White and BME students’ expectations of their academic success, including managing the expectations of their family.
- Students’ experiences of discrimination, and the effectiveness of University systems for reporting such instances.
- Differences in students’ pre-university qualifications – particularly BTEC – and how this might affect their preparedness for higher education.
- The organisation and effectiveness of the University’s Academic Adviser system.
- Evaluation of existing student support schemes and services, including peer-to-peer mentoring.
- Provision of support for students commuting to University of Kent.
So far, project research has generated a number of reports and recommendations for the University, and continues to inform practice through academic school intervention strategies. Our research has been featured in Times Higher Education, and was showcased at our inaugural national conference in June 2016. University of Kent staff can also access reports and presentations via our password-protected webpage.
As the project moves into Phase II, we are interested in collaborating with University of Kent undergraduates to research a range of themes including identity and belonging, attendance, and curricula. If you are interested in contributing to this research project, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Alexander Hensby.