Fair Access Research: Experience

Experience is one of five themes in the Fair Access Research Project (FAR)

How can universities proactively support under-represented groups of students to thrive? What makes students feel that they belong? How can students develop confidence and skills to get the most from their course and prepare them for the future?

Browse on this page or jump to specific sections to explore how our research informs the broad range of student support and co-creation opportunities that foster resilience, self-confidence and success.

My Voice, My Story

Asking the Students – Questionnaire

Students who bounce back

Students coaching each other: Grow at BU

Widening Participation students engaging with Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)

Staff Supporting Students

My Voice, My Story

The lived experience of being a non-traditional student at university

We wanted to explore what it means to be a non-traditional student at university through the student voice, using photovoice, a participatory photographic and story technique. This technique sees students become the researchers of their own lives through taking photos and narrating their own stories.

This research project was undertaken with a group of Bournemouth University (BU) undergraduate students from non-traditional (widening participation) backgrounds. Student participants were enabled to become research co-creators using photovoice methodology.

Expand to read more

In photovoice participants use photographs as a way of sharing their lived experiences and their stories. The students took photographs to represent their experiences of being a non-traditional student in higher education which they shared within the group and together explored and analysed the photos taken. The students then wrote short excerpts regarding their individual photographs.

The students’ stories and photographs were shared at the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science event held at BU in November 2016. Academics and WP practitioners from a variety of different universities attended the workshop to interpret and explore the impact of the students’ stories. Participants engaged in co-creation, listening to students’ voices, learning from their stories, hearing about the photovoice research method, and working together to develop practical responses to some of the challenges which the stories presented.

The themes which emerged through an analysis of the research data include the concepts of transition, connectedness, and the journey.

One of the central tenets of the photovoice method is that the participatory approach is used to inform policymakers, so that meaningful policy changes can be shaped in unison with the lived experiences of the communities the policies are intended to serve.

Listening to students’ voices and hearing students’ own stories of their lived experiences of university can help ensure that policies are developed and implemented that work with the lives and needs of non-traditional students. ​

The images and associated stories told by the students were then shared with some BU media students who created the video montage below. The montage is also available on the BU YouTube Channel  and on the ESRC website.

Presentation:  My Voice My Story Training Workshop

My Voice, My Story Project Workshop

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further information on the Workshop:
Presentation: My Voice, My Story workshop
BU Research blog: My Voice, My Story Workshop
CEL blog: Project update and workshop invitation

Project Summary: Fair Access Briefing 3
Conference paper:
Eccles, S., Heaslip, V., Hutchings, M., Hunt, C. 2017.  My Voice My Story. The lived experience of being a non-traditional student at university through participatory photovoice. British Education Research Association (BERA) Conference. September 2017, University of Sussex, Brighton.

For further information please contact Dr Vanessa Heaslip or Dr Maggie Hutchings

Asking the studentsMaking BU better for you

Institutional Questionnaire:  ‘Making BU better for You’

This questionnaire formed a major part of the FAR project. It was developed in partnership with SUBU (BU Students’ Union) and was designed, piloted and redrafted with the help of final year students who had graduated from the university before its implementation.

More than 2,000 students completed the questionnaire providing a rich source of quantitative and qualitative data which will help with the targeted interventions to enhance the student experience, including improving student retention and satisfaction.  In measuring the success of these interventions, our findings will help guide policy and practice to better meet the needs of specific student groups as well as providing direction to further our research.

Following our over-arching strategy of working together for WP practice, we will freely* share, with other universities, our institutional questionnaire and welcome the possibility of working on joint projects.  Contact Dr. Clive Hunt for more details.

 *all that we ask is that Bournemouth University and the FAR project is acknowledged.

Copy of the BU Questionnaire: Making BU better for you

Published paper:
Hunt, C., Collins, B., Wardrop, A., Hutchings, M. Heaslip, V., Pritchard, C., 2017. First and second generation design and engineering students: Experience, attainment and factors influencing them to attend university Higher Education Research and Development    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07294360.2017.1342607
Article DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1342607  

Further information is in Fair Access Briefing 2

Students’ Union Partnerships for Widening Participationsubu

Online Resource

The aim of this project was to establish the best ways to build and sustain partnerships with Students’ Unions for widening participation and to develop an online resource with an educational technologist to share these findings across the sector.   The online resource aims to support those in the HE sector to build stronger research partnerships, working and learning together for WP research, policy and practice.

Full information on this project can be found on the FAR Ways of Working webpage

Link to the online resource here

Students who bounce back

Would anyone fill these boots?

A research project with student carers at BU   

This is a collaborative project involving BU researchers and students in co-production of data collection, analysis and dissemination.  Students were given a camera to take a picture each day for a month. Their goal was to capture scenes that would help the researchers to understand their experiences as students and carers at BU and how caring impacted on their learning experiences.

Read more

They were given the freedom to portray anything they felt was relevant to the project.  In addition to this, the students met with the research team for one-to-one interviews, helped the team to better understand how caring and studying interplay in students’ lives.

The final collaboration between students and researchers came through an exhibition. Images displayed were selected from a pool of over 300 images produced by the students and captions came from their interviews. The students were given final say over which images and words were used to reflect their experiences. This project was led by Dr Jacqueline Priego, postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Excellence in Learning (CEL) and  funded through BU’s Fair Access Agreement Management Group (FAAMG).

Students who bounce back

Dr Priego reflects on this project in Think Piece One: All of us put other people first

Students coaching each other

Grow at BU

Grow at BU provides an important support service for many students at BU, focusing particularly on enabling those from WP backgrounds to succeed at the university.  An evaluation approach of Grow at BU was developed to capture how the service impacts upon the lives of WP students, including the impact on the student engagement co-ordinators.  Focus groups were held over two stages of evaluation, some outputs are illustrated below. The data comprised of visual material from the focus groups and interview data from students and members of the Student Engagement Team (SET) . 

BU GROW report
More information on Grow at BU on the BU webpage
Link to the Grow at BU Toolkit

For further information please contact GROW.

Widening Participation students engaging with Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)

This research explores some of the difficulties students from widening participation backgrounds face in transitioning to university and how engaging with BU’s Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme has impacted their learning and personal development.

Project poster: PAL

For further information please contact Dr Vanessa Heaslip

BU Academic Advisers Guidance for Widening Participation

One of the key findings from a FAR staff survey was that academic advisers play a vital role in supporting members of staff to support students. The FAR team worked with BU colleagues to develop a guidance document to support academic advisers when they are working with WP students. This guidance has been disseminated and embedded within the Faculties for their general use.

Read the WP Guidance for Academic Advisers

For further information please contact Dr Vanessa Heaslip

Staff  Supporting Students

A survey on how academics understand their role in supporting students’ health and wellbeing needs     

A survey of staff at Bournemouth University sought to find out how academics understand their role in supporting students’ health and wellbeing needs. An internal report situated the survey data in a wider context relating to student wellbeing and issues of widening participation.

The key findings were:

  • The majority of academics do feel that supporting students is part of their practice
  • The issue of boundaries and the remit of an academic role emerges as an important issue
  • Signposting and referral are central to how academics understand their role in supporting students
  • Some of the responses suggest that there are opportunities to implement greater support for staff supporting students, particularly concerning accessible and up-to-date information about signposting

For further details of the questionnaire used, contact Dr. Clive Hunt





Back to Top | Homepage | Admissions | Outreach | Continuation | Ways of Working