Improving PGT student identity and their experience through understanding their expectations on entry – the findings from an 11 University HEFCE funded project

Research and Practice seminar: Improving PGT student identity and their experience through understanding their expectations on entry – the findings from an 11 University HEFCE funded project

DATE: Wednesday 23rd October 2019

TIME: 16:00 - 17:30

LOCATION: Mount Pleasant Campus

To book a place please email

Speaker: Dr Michelle Morgan, Associate Professor, Bournemouth University

Since the mid-1990s, Masters level study has experienced massification in terms of participation in the UK.  Although the Higher Education Academy undertakes valuable surveys examining the masters and research postgraduate student experience, they occur near the end of a student’s study journey. Up until 2014, there had been very limited research undertaken on the expectations of applicants and students entering this level of study. Research was small scale and institutional based (Stuart et al., 2008; Morgan, 2013; 2014). This led to independent bodies such as the Higher Education Commission commenting that ‘Postgraduate education is a forgotten part of the sector’ (Higher Education Commission, 2012:17). However, as a result of a substantial decline in participation between 2011 and 2013, HEFCE established Phase 1 of the Postgraduate Support Scheme designed to find innovative ways to sustain postgraduate taught participation.

The Postgraduate Experience Project (PEP) involving 11 universities in the UK was funded via this scheme. It enabled for the first time the expectations and experiences of applicants and students in, through and out of study and those of employers recruiting master’s graduates to be explored. This seminar will report the findings from this groundbreaking research and demonstrate how through understanding the expectations of all stakeholders, improving their identity and experience can be effectively managed and balanced.

PEP’s data highlighted the complexity of the PGT student’s life and their individual support requirements. It enabled each institution to obtain a better understanding of their student body therefore enabling them to provide targeted and inclusive support. It also enabled them to consider the employers perspective in the development of future course developments and importantly, help identify ways to effectively balance and manage the expectations and outcomes of all stakeholders.

The full report is available on the project website:

The seminar will provide an opportunity for exploration of some of those findings.


Higher Education Commission (2012) Postgraduate Education -An Independent Inquiry by the Higher Education Commission, London: HEC.

Stuart, M., Lido C., Morgan, M., Solomon., L and Akroyd., K (2008) Widening Participation to PG study, Higher Education Academy, York:HEA.

Morgan, M. (2013a) Individual Project Report - Understanding prior feedback experiences of new postgraduate taught (PGT) STEM students’ and their expectations and attitudes towards PGT level study at a 1992 institution, York: HEA.

Morgan, M. (2014) Patterns, Drivers and Challenges pertaining to Postgraduate Taught Study- an international comparative analysis in Journal for Higher Education and Research Development, 33 (6) p1150-1165.


Michelle Morgan is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Student Experience in the Faculty of Media and Communications at Bournemouth University. Michelle is extensively published in the area of supporting student diversity and improving the student learning experience at undergraduate and postgraduate taught level in, through and out of the student study journey. Her two edited books that revolve around her Student Experience Transitions Model (SEPT) are designed to help academic and professional service colleagues support students. She has developed a free portal for staff which provides a range of information and links for anyone interested in improving the student experience in higher education

During her varied career, Michelle has been a Faculty Manager, Researcher and Academic. She describes herself as a ‘Third Space Professional’ student experience practitioner who develops initiatives based on pragmatic and practical research. Michelle has over 50 publications and has presented over 100 national and international conference papers (including 30 keynotes and 30 invited papers).

Prior to her current post, she was creator and PI/Project Lead of an innovative £2.7 million 11 university collaborative HEFCE grant looking at the study expectations and attitudes of postgraduate taught (PGT) students. The project report has received praise from across the sector including UKCGE, OFFA, the HEA and the Engineering Professor’s Council.

In 2005, she was recipient of a special award from the University of Sussex’s Students’ Union for Outstanding Achievement and Excellence. She is a Principal Fellow of the HEA and Fellow of the AUA. She was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2011 and in 2015 she received the Student Led L&T Award from the Students Union at Kingston University. She co-wrote and co-presented a 5 part Radio series for BBC China in 2011 on the student learning experience. Michelle is a Fellow of the AUA, Principal Fellow of the HEA and a Council member of UKCGE. She was a Judge of The Guardian University awards panel.


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