Student Engagement Guidelines: Learning from innovative practices introduced in response to COVID-19: A collaboration of 10 UK modern universities

George Hulene, Sue Cronshaw, E.M.M. Davies, Leanne de Main, Hannah Holmes, Alex Hope, Chris Odindo, Rebecca Page-Tickell, Amit Rawal, Samantha Roberts, Danielle Talbot, Sabrina Vieth, Peter Wolstencroft

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This project investigates student experiences and student engagement in the post-pandemic world of Higher Education in the UK. It is a QAA-funded collaborative Enhancement Project involving 10 Higher Education Business Schools who have experienced institutional challenges and developed different strategies to maintain positive student experiences and explore avenues for improvements amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Data was collected through a student survey and focus groups conducted at each of the 10 participating universities.

As a result of the survey, we gathered significant quantitative data on students’ perspectives on engagement. Participating students ranked the importance of 31 engagement criteria from ‘not at all’ to ‘extremely’ important, indicating their priorities for what they view as student engagement. Additional questions around engagement patterns provided insights into the behaviours and student attributes that shaped these perspectives.

In addition, focus groups provided interesting qualitative insights that complement the survey results, allowing students to express their views and opinions on studying before, during and after the pandemic. This revealed compelling findings that elaborate the changes students have undergone during this period, and the reflections they have drawn from these.

A number of interesting findings emerged from this data. These primarily centre around themes including timetabling and commuting students, the need for physical and virtual communities, the importance of recordings for flexible learning, digital literacy and inequalities, and the need to do more to mobilise student voices. Building on these themes, we discuss their meaning in the context of post-pandemic student experiences and the need to rethink the idea of student engagement to extend beyond the synchronous physical classroom experience.

• The pandemic has disrupted what students once perceived as a ‘normal’ way of engaging with learning and teaching, but also opened up avenues for engagement beyond traditional classroom experiences.
• The complex needs of commuter students pose challenges for institutions, to respond to growing demands for more accommodating campus environments to maintain student engagement.
• The pandemic has impacted students’ sense of belonging and increased the need to include both physical (campuses) and virtual spaces (virtual learning environments), as part of learner communities.
• Students showed great appreciation of the efforts universities took to digitise learning and teaching during the pandemic, while acknowledging that there is still room for improvement.
• The rise of online/hybrid learning seems to have caused a dilemma for students between their desires for flexible learning and the expectations associated with it.
• The pandemic appears to have created a ‘fatigue’ amongst students to proactively engage with enrichment activities that are traditionally linked to campus life, student halls or student unions.
• The pandemic has also caused many students to feel isolated, often missing out on developing peer group friendships and relationships with academics, triggering an increased demand for mental health and well-being support.
• Students’ views on engagement appear to have shifted towards a rising awareness that sole attendance is not sufficient to constitute a robust form of engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyQuality Assurance Agency
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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