To engage or not to engage? That is the question. Students' Perceptions of Engagement at a West Midlands University

Jane Beniston, Deborah Harris


As part of the REACT research team, students from Newman University embarked on a two-year research project which set out to explore and compare how the concept of student engagement was perceived by students who were involved in a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The rationale for undertaking the study was with a view to developing a shared understanding of student engagement across the institution, making student engagement more visible across the institution and ensuring that strategies implemented to encourage student engagement were fit for purpose, particularly for the ‘non-traditional’ student at Newman. Questionnaires were designed by students and staff to facilitate both quantitative and qualitative responses around the comparing and contrasting definitions of engagement from students. Student perspectives considered engagement usually at an academic level, with little knowledge and understanding of the wider opportunities for engagement. Data collected also identified that working with others was a key aspect of student engagement, but barriers were identified as to why students did not perceive social engagement as important.


Student; Engagement; Percepions; Academic; Social; Wider Engagement

Full Text:



Andrew, N. and Whitaker, R. (2013) Promoting individualism and retaining identity in mass higher education: academic advising for the 21st Century. Available at: (Accessed: 8 November 2016).

Axelson, R. D. and Flick A. (2011) ‘Defining student engagement, Change.’ The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(1), 38-43. DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2011.533096

Bryson, C. (2014) ‘Clarifying student engagement.’ In: Bryson, C. (ed.) Understanding and developing student engagement. London: Routledge, 19.

Buckely, A. (2014) ‘How radical is student engagement? (And what is it for?).’ Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 3(2). Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2017).

Coates, H. (2005) ‘The value of student engagement for higher education quality assurance.’ Quality in Higher Education, 11(1) 25-36. DOI:10./13538320500074915

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2000) Research methods in Education. London: Routledge Falmer.

Evans C., Muijs D. and Tomlinson M. (2015) Engaged student learning; high impact strategies to enhance student achievement. York: Higher Education Academy.

Hand, L. and Bryson, C. (2008) Student engagement. London: Staff and Education Development Association.

HEA. (2010) Framework for action: enhancing student engagement at the institutional level. York: Higher Education Academy.

Hu, S. and Kuh, G.D. (2001) ‘Being (Dis) Engaged in Educationally Purposeful Activities: The Influences of Student and Institutional Characteristics.’ Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference. Seattle, WA, 10-14 April.

Kahu, E. (2013) ‘Framing Student Engagement in Higher Education.’ Studies in Higher Education, 38(5), 758-773 DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2011.598505

Krause, H. and Coates, H. (2008) ‘Students engagement in first-year university.’ Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(5), 493-505.

Krause, K. McInnis C., and Wells C. (2003) ‘Out-of-class engagement in undergraduate learning communities: The role and nature of peer interactions.’ Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Association for the study of Higher Education. Portland, OR, November 13-16, 2003).

Krause, K., Hartley R., Janes R. and McInnis C. (2005) The first year experience in Australian Universities; findings from a decade of national studies. Canberra: AGPS.

Leach, L. (2013) ‘Engaging ethnically diverse first year students. A practice report’. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 4(2) 117-124.

Patton, M.Q. (2015) Qualitative research & Evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice. London: Sage.

Solomonides, I. Reid, A. and Petocz, P. (2012) Engaging with Learning in Higher Education. Faringdon, UK: Libri Publishing.

Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works? Student Retention and Success programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Trowler, V. (2010) Student engagement literature review. York: Higher Education Academy.

Walliman, N. (2011) Your Research project. 3rd edn. London: Sage.



  • There are currently no refbacks.