«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 ...»
(http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/cpv/forstudents_why.htm ) Volunteering is seen as both central to the Corporate Plan as well as bringing real benefits to participants with specific mentions of enhanced employability and of personal and professional development. The University provides opportunities for international volunteering as well as at the local level. While there is no one-to-one relationship between corporate strategy and actions on the ground (Clegg & Smith, 2008), it seems safe to assume that this environment might encourage both staff and students to be positively orientated towards the benefits of ECA or that, at least, those already so disposed will find themselves in a cultural context that supports and favours such an approach.
The University also has arts partnerships with Northern Ballet Theatre, and international connections with the International Indian Film Awards events.
Leeds Met is known for its commitments to sport and promotes the name of its sport and education Carnegie Faculty widely. It has made a highly symbolic investment cementing its local sporting connections by renaming the historic Leeds Rugby and Yorkshire County Cricket Club stadium the Headingley Carnegie Stadium and guaranteeing the use of the Carnegie Stand (http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/the_news/jan06/headingley_carnegie_stadium.htm).
The symbolic and discursive function of such partnerships both internally and externally signal a very high level commitment to partnerships and experiences that extends beyond the curriculum. While some universities might project themselves primarily on the basis of their curricular offering or research excellence, it is clear that Leeds Met has chosen to emphasise the scope for extra-curricular involvements and partnerships and that these are seen to enhance the reputation of the University within its local communities and also to afford its students extensive opportunities for ECA.
5. Research questions and methodology Our overall aim was to enhance conceptual and theoretical understandings of the diversity and value of ECA and to understand how these might be developed to benefit graduate outcomes. Due to the lack of empirical data about participation in the range of ECA we needed to establish some descriptive data based simply on exploring the degree of participation by different groups of students. As there is no consensus about what constitutes ECA, we were particularly concerned to explore students’ and staff definitions of The Higher Education Academy 19 ECA. This has particular pedagogical significance, as if an activity is not seen as having curricular relevance, or pertinence in shaping graduate futures, then participation in activities even where there might seem to be prima fascie benefits is unlikely to be capable of producing positive outcomes (unless they are retrospectively revalued, which is outside the scope of our study).
Recognition in other words seems to be one of the crucial mechanisms whereby benefits might accrue. As we are interested in a cultural capital approach, we wanted to explore whether there were differences in: participation – whether activities varied by social group; conceptualisation – whether there were different definitions of what counted as ECA; valorisation – whether there was differential value attached to ECA. Following Thomas and Quinn (2007) we looked in particular at first generation, and we were also interested in gender differences, and whether there were discernable differences between different ethic groups. Given this approach it was crucial that as well collecting descriptive data derivable from a questionnaire instrument, we also had the opportunity to probe deeper using interviews to generate rich, qualitative data.
In particular, therefore, we wanted to:
• establish the full range of ECA that students engage with;
• ascertain whether there are differential patterns of participation by social group/gender/ethnicity between types of ECA, and those ECA that are initiated from within the university and those initiated outside;
• explore both student and staff perceptions and conceptualisations of ECA and explore whether there are differences between different types of ECA including more traditional ECA initiated from within the university and those originating in the ‘home’ community, caring, or external employment;
• explore student and staff perceptions of the value of participation in ECA to the enhancement of graduate outcomes, and explore whether there are distinctions in the value accorded to those ECA that are initiated from within university to those initiated from outside;
• explore whether staff and students draw on ECA in relationship to curriculum activities and in shaping graduate futures.
Data were collected using three instruments with the questionnaire providing the basis for the selection of students for interview. The data were analysed separately in relation to the specific research questions above, but were then treated analytically as a whole with the aim of establishing a more sophisticated conceptualisation of the full range of ECA and the relationship of participation to the development of general social and cultural capital and students’ possible graduate futures. The content and administration of the project were approved via the University’s research ethics procedures.
6. The survey
6.1 Methods An online questionnaire was designed using SNAP software and hosted on the Leeds Metropolitan University website, and is reproduced in Appendix I. In The Higher Education Academy 20 order to gather a wide range of information without making completion too onerous for respondents, most questions simply required clicking on boxes, rather than entering text. This is at the expense of fine detail and nuance, but these were pursued in separate interviews. The survey only targeted Level 2 students. It was initiated during semester 1 of 2007-08, and we felt that many new, Level 1 students may not have embedded into University life and established their patterns of work and other activities. Similarly Level 3 students were excluded as their patterns of activity may have been changing due to finalyear projects and deadlines. Furthermore, we only included Level 2 students who were currently studying on campus, leaving out those who were on work placements. Part-time and international students studying abroad were excluded as they are likely to have separate issues in their engagement, both with the University and their activities outside it. Responses to the survey were anonymous, but the final section allowed students to indicate whether they would be prepared to participate in a follow-up interview, and if so to give their name and contact details.
The purpose of the survey instrument was to establish a descriptive profile of current students, and how they conceptualise the activities they engage in outside their course, including work and caring responsibilities, as well as traditionally defined extra-curricular activities. As we hypothesised that patterns of activity and values will have been influenced by parents and prior educational experiences, we also questioned the students about these pre-university influences. Given the demands of employment and other activities, some of which are strongly promoted by the University, we also asked students whether they felt these had had an impact on their academic work. Beyond the basic descriptive information, data were analysed through the lens of cultural capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977).
Given that there does not seem to be a stable definition of what constitutes ECA, and we were interested in whether students conceptualised what they did as ECA, we initially asked students to simply indicate whether they participated in any ECA (‘yes’ or ‘no’). In what follows, analyses using these data are referred to as self-declared ECA. We subsequently asked students to indicate the type
and extent of ECA they engaged in, using the following list of generic prompts:
Arts Faith/Cultural Political Sport/Physical Volunteering Other Caring/Domestic Where subsequent analyses use these data, either individually or combined, they are referred to as prompted ECA. Note that the list does not contain work (paid employment), which could arguably be included, but which we interrogated separately. We used the same prompted list when asking the students about the kind of activities their parents or carers engaged in outside The Higher Education Academy 21 work. While they are probably not strictly extra-curricular for their parents, we will use the term Parent ECA to reinforce that the same categories of activity are used when referring to them for both parents and students. Some analyses will exclude responses under the Caring/Domestic category as these might not be universally recognised as ECA.
The survey sought to distinguish between activity initiated within the University and outside it. As well as external employment gained through agencies or directly with businesses, students can gain employment within the University via ‘Job Shop’, an internal employment agency, through acting as student ambassadors, or via their course. Likewise, other activities such as sports, volunteering or arts may be initiated within universities via traditional student societies or the course of study, or participation may be through external groups.
Distinguishing among these is particularly important as students who continue to live at home while at university differentially access these sorts of activities (Holdsworth, 2006).
6.3 Demographics of respondents A total of 640 students responded to the survey, comprising approximately 12% of the target population. 93% of respondents were studying for a Bachelors degree, with the other 7% registered on HND or foundation degree courses.
Approximately half of students were from families where at least one parent had attended HE (Table 2) and there was no significant difference in this variable between genders. Whereas for approximately 52% of White British respondents at least one parent had attended university, this figure was 46% for Other ethnic groups (42% if White Other are excluded from this latter group).
Table 2: Prior family participation in HE
Respondents largely lived in private houses or flats shared with other students (Table 3), with only a small proportion in University residences. Almost 21% lived in their family home, which included seven who described themselves as living with a spouse or partner.
Reflecting the numbers of students at the University from the Leeds area (approximately 25%, see Table 1), a large proportion of respondents attended FE college before coming to the University (Table 4). Leeds has several large FE colleges that are part of the Regional University Network, and these provide the largest number of students per institution for the University (Leeds Metropolitan University, unpublished data). Reflecting this, and the associated numbers of widening participation students, a substantial fraction of students had come to the University with vocational qualifications rather than traditional academic GCE A-levels or their equivalent (Table 5).
Table 4: Educational institutions attended by students immediately prior to attending Leeds Metropolitan University
Key: AVCE = Advanced Vocational Certificate in Education; GNVQ = General National Vocational Qualification; IB = International Baccalaureate; HND = Higher National Diploma Approximately two-thirds of respondents were female, which is greater than the proportion at the institution, and students from all faculties across the University were represented (Figure 1).
Key to faculties: CSE = Carnegie Faculty of Sport & Education; FAS = Faculty of Arts & Society; FBL = Faculty of Business & Law; INN = Innovation North (The Faculty of Information and Technology); FHE = Faculty of Health & Environment; INT = International Faculty Of the 635 who indicated their age, 75% were of ‘traditional’ student age, i.e. 21 or under, and approximately 10% were 25 or over (Table 6).