Students at the Heart Conference: What makes a strong student community?

Worried about your National Student Survey scores?

Well, take a closer look at satisfaction for ‘feeling part of a community of students and staff’ and you will see that if you score highly here, you can score highly most other places too!

Any sense of belonging appears to be fundamental to student satisfaction and progression as a new project run by the LJMU Screen School backs up.

Students, supported by Director Rachel McLean and creative writing lead Sarah MacLennan, have spent several months exploring what makes a strong student community.

The outcome is a piece of work – comprising metrics, videos and analysis – which can help teams and the institution as a whole prioritise a strategy to create a more engaged student body.

Students Becca McCrory, Kobi Newell and Mehwish Ahmed carried out a literature review and surveys of current student view on ‘what is community?’

‘Feeling connected to course-mates and lecturers’, ‘working together’, ‘sharing mutual interests’ and a ‘sense of belonging to a whole’ were frequent answers as was the bedrock issue ‘making friends’.

“One of the main things we found was that people who were not doing well on the academic side were the ones who were feeling socially isolated,” explained Kobi.

With funding from the Curriculum Enhancement Fund, the nine students made a series of films of students, including JMSU officers, expressing their views on what made them feel connected and how the university and they themselves could do more.

Suggestions include more tours, more events year-round not just at Freshers/Induction and better spaces for groups like mature students, non-drinkers and international students.

“One of the big issues is loneliness,” said Sarah MacLennan. “An awful lot of students feel lonely, and other have imposter syndrome and we need new ways to engage them.”

Michelle Morgan, Dean of Students at UEL and keynote speaker at the Student at the Heart Conference said every university or school could take practical steps, like giving every student key phone numbers on something they look at daily, like their timetable or term dates planner.


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