«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»
(Student 45, Female, 20, White British, Roman Catholic, Human Geography, sixth form college, 1st generation) The Embedded Student The Embedded Students were those students for whom participation in ECA was an intentional activity designed to provide them with the skills, knowledge, networks and recognition to become ‘expert’ students. They were deliberate in their approach to ECA and often chose not to participate in any form of paid The Higher Education Academy 69 employment that might detract from their development of a student identity. The Embedded Students were less evident from the interviews than those students participating in ECA to become experts with the CoP of the workplace.
Nonetheless they were still notable in that their identities were strongly worked
and strongly held and they were very focused in the pursuit of their goals:
I would rather just stick with University while I am a student, not get out in the big bad world yet. I think while I have got the student loan coming in, I would rather just live off that and rather just not get another job, just not worry about it yet... in the 1st year we had a Craft Circle, which our tutor made up and basically taught us how to do all crafty things, like taught how to knit, crochet, we were doing felt making, loads of different things... and British Sign Language...
and being a student ambassador... it kind of made you more closer with the tutors kind of thing, people got on.
(Student 14, Female, 21, White British, Graphic Arts and Design, sixth form college, 1st generation) These students formed strong relationships with their tutors and lecturers that
were reciprocal and a source of enormous pleasure to the students:
It’s just been, well one tutor in particular and then he has kind of passed my name onto other tutors who have then kind of borrowed me for various things. Like I did a photo shoot the other day for the University, that kind of was a result of this one particular tutor, he’s passed me onto someone else who now knows my name and like rings me up for help with other things and it’s kind of ended up like that, I’ve got about five or six lecturers who just ring me up when they need to know something and you go, ‘this is a bit bizarre’... I had a really random one the other day where a tutor called me and said ‘can you recommend 20 ethnic students to go to a launch?’ (Student 18, Female, 21, White British, Christian, family home, Law, FE college, 1st generation) These students were, in the main, different from many other students in that they didn’t have to work, or worked fewer hours leaving them time to be ‘real students’, a luxury that they were keenly aware of and consequently did not squander the opportunities given to them. The only paid employment they tended to participate in was to be a Student Ambassador. Other ECA they were involved in included the Students’ Union, sporting activities and internal university activities arranged through the Students’ Union.
The Pleasure Seeker The Pleasure Seekers were a small group, notable in the interviews in that they considered higher education as a place within which to have as much fun and enjoyment as possible. While they may have participated in ECA before they
came into HE these habits were not persistent:
... ever since I’ve come to Uni I don’t play as much sport at all, I think it’s just the social side of things... I’m not being big headed but I’ve got loads of friends in different circles... and I’d rather like spend like some of the time seeing other people obviously.
They were ‘happy-go-lucky’, had a very wide circle of friends and got pleasure
out of socialising:
... the social side and you know you get to know so many people a couple of the girls train here... you build up a little network and it is really good fun, it is worthwhile, it is worth doing because they really enjoy it too and they appreciate the effort that you put in.
(Student 22, Female, 21, White British, Roman Catholic, Sport & Leisure, sixth form college, not 1st generation) More importantly they considered a career to be something in the very distant future, and that they still had years of being able to avoid gaining employment or facing having to make any harsh decisions in life. If they were working it was more so that they had funds to continue enjoying themselves than for any other
... the dream is to become a famous artist and I think a lot of people have that belief in me that I can do that and I just need to, I think at the moment I am still quite young and I don’t want to push myself to that’s all I am doing in life, is working to live. I think especially with fine art, if you look at a lot of great artists, they didn’t start doing their own thing until they were in their 30s, 40s you know, but I don’t know, I try not to think about jobs. I’m going to go travelling after Uni anyhow.
(Student 37, Male, 21, White British, Fine Art, FE college, not 1st generation) I would rather just go travelling, I said to my Dad the other day like my dream is like when I’m older like to have like a shack on a beach and just do that all day and go surfing... He was like ‘you do it’, my Dad’s just like, my Dad just knows that I live in dream land anyway so my Mum was like … and I was like ‘yeah Mum, whatever’.
(Student 1, Female, 19, Mixed White and Asian, Sports Nutrition & Exercise, independent/private school, 1st generation) What was particularly interesting about this group of students was that although they might be participating in a range of ECA, they did not see the value of these activities with regard to anything else other than fun, enjoyment, or perhaps keeping fit and healthy. They certainly did not consider that their participation in ECA might be of relevance to them as regards employability and were, in the main, totally unaware of the skills they might be developing that might be transferable.
... in sports, like my dance and stuff, I think that only helps me to keep fit and to keep active to tell the truth. I don’t think it contributes anything to my education or skills-wise, I think it just helps me to keep fit, to keep active, keep my brain going.
(Student 13, Female, 21, Other Black background, Seventh Day Adventist, house or flat on own, Law, high school in USA, not 1st generation) The Higher Education Academy 71 The Giver The Givers were an interesting group in that they were participating in ECA not, primarily to benefit themselves but predominantly for the benefit of other people
or groups in society:
I’m going to try and get involved in a project in Harehills where it’s teaching the Asylum Seekers and Refugees basic English, it’s working with people in the community, people who are on the borders of society and excluded.
(Student 40, Female, 21, Black British (Caribbean), Christian, Social Science, sixth form college, 1st generation) However, while the prime reason for participating in ECA was to contribute to the ‘community’, either within or outside of the University, many of the students were participating in courses that were allied to the type of ECA they were involved in such as Peace and Development, Teacher Training and Youth and Community work. Consequently their involvement in these activities was
designed to embed themselves further as students:
I did set up a society. But it just didn’t take off at all because I just don’t think people are interested... we had set up a film club as well... But not actually any of my classmates turned up for that either... And then we did a day trip to Fylingdales, which is the military base in Whitby, but it was an 8 ‘o’clock start and nobody turned up.
(Student 43, Female, 22, White British, Pagan Wiccan, Peace & International Relations, FE college, 1st generation) What makes the Givers particularly interesting is that through these forms of participation, many of the students were developing skills that were transferable
to future employment – and of which they were keenly aware:
Through my political engagement I have learned how to be sort of more compromising for people who aren’t of the same beliefs and ideas as me. Also as well I have learned how to, I don’t know, talk to people more and be more friendly towards people because that is how we engage people and sort of draw them in and get them to sign their name on the dotted line. Sign their soul to the devil so to speak.
(Student 17, Female, 20, White British, English Literature, sixth form college, 1st generation) In other words, the Givers were participating in ECA that were developing dual identities and might facilitate their access into more than one community of practice – albeit within a relatively narrow field of employment.
The Onlookers Some students, a small number, were participating in no forms of ECA (that they recognised as ECA, although many were carers). In his research Redmond (2003) named these students the ‘Wash ‘n’ Go’ students – students who come on to campus, attend lectures and then go home, and for some the only form of ECA they participated in was their final graduation ceremony. They included The Higher Education Academy 72 those with caring responsibilities, those working part-time and those living at
I think that aspect of buying the house didn’t help me in that being in halls I suppose you are sort of immersed in Uni culture and you tend to sort of go out and join groups in a desperate attempt to find some friends and sort of fit in, in your area, but because I am still very linked to York so I suppose I sort of have that as a safety net so I haven’t felt the need to go out and find things to do.
(Student 8, Female, 22, White British, English & History, sixth form college, not 1st generation) This group was different to all the others. Rather than developing identities that facilitated their access into a community of practice, their lack of participation excluded them from communities of practice. Reflecting research by Christie et al. (2007), many students saw quite clearly that they were not full members of a
... when I first applied to University, see all the prospectuses and all groups and you think ‘oh Rugby, Archery all this stuff oh I’ll join this that and the other’ – but then you don’t realise that all woman’s rugby team, they have matches in Edinburgh, so they have to set off the night before, well who is going to take my daughter to school, so I can’t do that... and then even if you could and you’d miss those matches, training is during the week and I live at other side of Leeds as well.
(Student 12, Female, 30, White British, family home, Biomedical Science, FE college, 1st generation) As identified by others (Gallacher et al., 2002; Christie et al., 2007) for some learners, particularly those non-traditional learners who start from a position of ‘difference’ the movement from peripheral engagement to full engagement is distinctly more problematic than for others. For these students, fuller participation is not inevitable. The institutional opportunities presented (or not) to these non-traditional students and the practices in which they individually engage deny them full participation and maintain their peripheral identity. This included the types of learning, teaching and assessment activities offered, the mode of study entered into and the institutional support given to those with financial or childcare needs. Those students with caring responsibilities felt that they were a problem to the University who, despite claiming to support widening participation, found it difficult to accommodate their needs. This resulted in feelings of loss, separation, isolation and difference, particularly when these
students compared themselves to other students:
So it’s a bit you know it makes you a bit sad when you first join – everyone is going ‘oh I’ve just joined this and it’s great’ and you sort, and you’re left sat thinking ‘oh’... You know its not fair, then you get a bit jealous and you think ‘oh’ you see them all in first year and they are all staying in halls and meeting new people and you have to trundle off home, you know it is it’s a bit, it’s hard.