Developing an understanding of why students do not engage
Bucks New University has worked alongside the REACT project to address the historical precedent of apparent student disengagement, attendance and attrition. Our view was that our “hard to reach” students were, by definition, the ones more likely to not engage and withdraw from their course.

Our project aims to create a shared vision about what engagement is in the broader sense. We aim to achieve this by working in partnership with students to share engagement data, collating evidence about who is engaged and how, and who is not and why.

For more information, contact Julie Irwin - Assistant Director– Learning & Teaching

What does the scheme entail?

The project is based on action research involving three action research cycles, employing a pragmatic mixed methods approach involving both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Each action research cycle consists of four stages: planning, acting, observing and reflecting. We explored a range of quantitative data (NSS results, attendance, Students’ Union activity, progression and attrition statistics, DLHE statistics, and module evaluation data).

What support do you get from the University?

Engaging with the project involved a multi-faceted approach requiring the close cooperation and collaboration of academic developers, learning developers, administrative staff and students in the sourcing, processing and exploration of data.

What are the motivations behind the scheme?

We wanted to investigate the impact of curricular and co-curricular activities on the student experience and explore strategies for enhancing student engagement, attendance and retention in order to further develop a culture of engagement.

Key benefits to the student

Current findings suggest that a culture of engagement is fostered where student engagement in quality assurance and feedback processes (such as the NSS and module evaluations) are seen to be valued institutionally in terms of clear communication to students of changes and developments resulting from such processes.

The motivational impact of staff who are perceived to be engaged with their students was also reported. Students appear to be strongly motivated by a ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to engagement activities (i.e., in terms of how such activities are perceived to have a direct connection to their courses).

On a wider basis, students seem more likely to engage with extra and co-curricular activities when the potential benefits of engaging are explicitly communicated to them.

Key benefits to the University

PREP aims to establish Bucks New University as a sector specialist in the support and development of work-based learners on higher and degree apprenticeships.

Key benefits to the sector

Findings from the project reflect wider sector research in terms of the positive impact of higher levels of student engagement with curricular and extra-curricular activities. More engaged students have a richer experience of higher education, tend to stay on their courses and do better academically.

Universities are more likely to foster a positive culture of engagement by directing responding to student feedback and acting upon it.

If you would like more information on the scheme, contact Julie Irwin, Assistant Director, Learning and Teaching.

Email Julie