Conference Papers

What encourages and impedes engagement and success in non-traditional students studying Higher Education in a Further Education setting?


Over the last 20 years, Higher Education (HE) provision has witnessed aspects of its delivery evolve, from the more traditional campus-based model, to that of an adaptive one where tuition occurs via a blend of face to face sessions, in settings other than that of a university campus, such as in Further Education (FE) colleges, and on-line learning. This means of delivery is referred to as the ‘Blended Learning Model’. This model potentially allows for those classified as ‘non-traditional’ students who, unable – for personal/familial/work/other reasons – to engage with said ‘standard’ campus model, to enrol on an ever-expanding range of undergraduate and post-graduate courses.

Aspects to be considered:

Age: Generally, students studying at HE level in a FE settings, tend to be older, and their non-study lives more complex than the so-called traditional students aged 18-21

Social Class: Research has shown, for some time now, how working class students, for many reasons, are less likely to study in HE, and if they do, the transition into HE may prove to be more difficult. Given that class is at the core of the English education system, there will be an examination of Bourdieu and Passeron’s concepts of ‘Social Reproduction’, along with ‘Field’ and ‘Habitus’ which will serve as a basis for the study’s exploration of class. Bernstein’s ‘Code’ theory will also be applied in conjunction with the aforementioned as academic language itself serves as a barrier to engagement

Gender: Research has demonstrated that early exposure to a gendered curriculum, in conjunction with the wider socially constructed view of gender and ability, can significantly impact male and female perceptions of intelligence, subject choice, career selection and academic success. This aspect will be explored with reference to course and career selection, as well as individual perceptions of academic capabilities

Culture and Ethnicity: There will be an exploration and comparison of intersecting attitudes to education between different social groups: one of the FE settings, from where data will be collected, recruits heavily from local ethnic minority communities

‘Imposter Syndrome’ and the notion of ‘Otherness’: These particular concepts, research has shown, are far more synonymous with students from working class backgrounds, with the latter theory being of increased relevance to females in HE.

The research is in its infancy, currently at the literature review stage of my Doctorate in Education.

Lewis, J. (2019) 'What encourages and impedes engagement and success in non-traditional students studying Higher Education in a Further Education setting?', paper presented to The 15th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 27–28 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>