Carried out through 2018-19, the Academic Journey Project sought to understand the barriers to academic success that first year home students face at UWE Bristol. Student co-researchers wrote about their first year as they experienced it, and this information was used to create a set of recommendations for support provisions within the University to help our students to succeed.
The project aimed to hear the voices of students from underrepresented groups within the University, as there are well researched gaps in attainment at university, and differences in transitions to higher education. 11 student co-researchers were recruited at the beginning of term, giving the project an overrepresentation of students that identified as either Mature, BAME, Disabled, from a Low Participation Neighbourhoods, or as an individual with a combination of these characteristics. 49 blogs were received that were rich with the real, lived experiences of students at UWE Bristol. This project allowed the students to describe their personal barriers to academic success as they were experiencing them.
The study found that enablers to academic success include good staff support, an initial positive experience, good peer support and high quality, timely and consistent learning resources. The students also expressed that they wanted the value of attendance and assignments more clearly explained, and it revealed they took a strategic approach to engagement with classes.
In general, their feedback showed that the best practices in learning and teaching worked well, but need to be delivered more consistently. This would help students have ‘penny drop’ moments more quickly, and reduce the impact of periods of disengagement. Essentially, catch them before they fall.
The barriers to academic success revealed in this study include inconsistent learning resources and requirements, challenges with support and feedback, the transition to higher education, personal confidence and self-belief, negative coping strategies, personal circumstances, and time management, specifically finding a work-life balance.
A number of recommendations were compiled by lead researchers and student co-researchers, covering scheduling, information provision, support provided by teaching staff, additional support provision.
Delaney, E., Hamilton, F., & Nash, A. Student-led enquiry into the UWE academic journey. UWE Bristol