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Belonging to and beyond the digital university

Start date

September 2023

End date

March 2024


The pandemic changed the experience of higher education for the vast majority of students, from how they are taught and learn course content to how they interact with faculty, peers and others across the institution.
Alongside this, how students experience the notion of belonging, which is closely related to students wellbeing and success, was also disrupted by Covid-19, resulting in the need to reconsider what ‘belonging’ means.
Findings from a Society for Research in Higher Education study in 2022, which innovatively unpacked the student experience and explored ‘belonging’ post-pandemic, will be brought to life through a website and illustrated resources, to enable educators to better support the learning and wellbeing of future students. 
Belonging to and beyond higher education in hybrid spaces’ was co-created with students through digital vlog interviews, by the University of Surrey, and Deakin University Australia, to understand the following objectives:
  • How is the concept of belonging understood within contemporary higher education? 
  • How has belonging and the spaces in which students belong changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the move to online, and now hybrid learning? 
  • How, and in what ways, should educators foster students’ sense of belonging and engagement going forward?


Planned Impact

Discover more about the research findings that this ESRC IAA funded project is helping to take to new audiences:


The research underpinning this project, co-produced with students, focused on their experiences of belonging and non-belonging, exploring the ways these are negotiated through hybrid or blended approaches to learning, which have become prevalent within institutions across the globe. 
In this ESRC IAA funded project, the website and visualisations created will function as conversation starters for educators to use, and will be monitored over time to determine their benefits in generating new understandings and teaching practices, related to the student experience.
Success will be measured through data analysis of downloads, and an online survey with users, with the visual materials being shared as widely as possible, to enable feedback from educators on how they are using the resources in their own work.
The team hopes the outputs from this project will promote knowledge exchange, engage stakeholders, and build new relationships between educators, researchers and students both nationally and internationally. The ultimate goal of this work is to improve students’ sense of belonging, wellbeing and academic success during their university experience.