Community and Belonging

For all students, feeling part of a community invokes feelings of security, positive emotions, and increased self-worth. A sense of belonging has also been demonstrated to be positively associated with student motivation, and academic success (Freeman et al, 2007; Bliuc et al, 2011). Students are less likely to withdraw from programmes or leave if they are engaged both on an academic and a social level (Tinto, 1993; Krause & Armitage, 2014). Inclusive institutions will build cultures which positively foster a strong sense of community and belonging.

Examples of how to do this might include:

Effective Personalised Academic & Pastoral Support.
Enabling students to feel comfortable discussing their concerns or anxieties with appropriately trained staff will allow for effective signposting to additional support as indicated. Some students may require more structured and specialist support than others. Interventions such as bi-weekly drop-in sessions or scheduled one to one monthly meetings could be used to help to facilitate effective rapport and relationship building.
Relevant and inclusive induction activities.
Effective induction is embedded within programmes and includes both social and academic focussed activities. Structure, timing and format of events will be considered, being mindful of commuter students, those with caring responsibilities etc. For example, the provision of alcohol might exclude students who choose not to drink for cultural, health or religious reasons. Inclusive induction will also provide tailored support for international students and those transferring from other institutions part way through their programme.
Supporting students to build friendships and peer support throughout their programmes.
Many students are more socially isolated than we might assume, so welcome opportunities to form connections with their peers within the programme. Examples might include working in smaller teaching groups, peer student support networks, and encouraging involvement with related academic societies.
Effective and ongoing partnership with students.
Examples of this might include initiatives such as student and staff collaborative projects, or involving students in programme design and decision making. Encouraging students to regularly evaluate modules and programmes, and responding constructively and transparently to feedback given.
Empower students to embrace inclusivity within their own learning environments.
This could include open discourse around student personal experience, and sharing of ideas amongst peer groups in relation to supporting diversity. This also includes actively educating students about equality, diversity and inclusion, bringing that knowledge and values into their future lives and careers.
Build diverse staff and student communities.
Higher education institutions have historically not represented the diversity of the wider population. No one should face structural barriers to becoming part of the higher education community. This may require reviewing student admissions policies and staff recruitment practices. All staff and students should feel that they are supported and valued members of the institution regardless of demographic background or personal circumstances.