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Fair Access Research: Experience

Fair Access Research: Experience

Experience is one of five themes in the Fair Access Research Project (FAR), BU’s approach to widening participation and breaking down barriers to make higher education more inclusive.

Within this theme, we investigate questions such as:

  • 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?

Within this page, we detail a number of projects within the overall FAR project, and how research in these areas informs a broad range of student support and co-creation opportunities that foster resilience, self-confidence and success.


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.

The images and associated stories told by the students were shared with some BU media students, who created this video montage.


Asking the students

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 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 guide policy and practice to better meet the needs of specific student groups as well as providing direction to further our research.

Following our overarching 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 QuestionnaireMaking BU better for you


Students’ Union Partnerships for Widening Participation

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


Students who bounce backthe bounce back exhibition

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.

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).

Dr Priego reflects on this project in Students as Carers: All of us put other people first

You can view some of the images in our gallery:


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 (pdf 376kb)

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 are:

  • 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

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