“Recognition and belonging: Engaging first generation students” (Area 3)

Wayne Richards, Faiza Elgazzari & Hugo Sugg (IHS)

This paper will draw on a Student as Academic Project (SAP) developed to explore issues of recognition, belonging and engagement for first generation students who are the first in their families to attend higher education. Whilst this group of students should be celebrated as pioneers of higher education they are more likely than their counterparts to drop out of their studies or have a difficult transition to higher education because they lack the required social capital (Capriccioso 2006 and Choy 2001). The study was a reflective journey by project members which offers insight into the unique challenges that first generation students face and considers the institutional responses needed to enhance their engagement and experience. In the face of widening participation and increasing access to university for students from diverse backgrounds the paper will consider the tension between the need for students to adapt in order to fit the university and the university’s need to adapt in order to fit the students. We will highlight small developments that can have the largest impact on both the University and the student population. Through this research, we believe that being a first generation student isn’t a barrier but a real and ongoing achievement!

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