An exploration of factors influencing undergraduate student engagement at a UK university

Richard Millican, Tristan Middleton, Tyrone Perry-Harry, Luci Holmes, Jorja Bond and Ohoud Abdalla


Educational institutions have a vested interest in learners being engaged in the teaching and learning process. A significant aspect of this would appear to be attendance; however, it is clearly not the only way of being engaged. Universities are no exception to this interest and we, as a course team of an undergraduate course in the UK, have also had concerns about our students’ engagement.

In the hope of discovering things that we might do to try to improve engagement, this small-scale research project worked with some of our students as co-researchers to explore student understanding of engagement and the influences on their attendance, contributions and completion of post-session extension activities.

Gathered through a series of three questionnaires and some follow-up interviews, the data revealed that, although some students felt that staying at home to complete assessments showed engagement, most believed that engagement meant attending, contributing and taking an active part in sessions.

Principal influences on engagement were found to be both external to the university: student attitude to learning, self-perception, time management, health, finances and travel arrangements; and internal: pedagogy, assessment demands, learning environment and session content.

These findings suggest that there is a need to consider carefully those influences that the university might have some control over and reflect on the way that learning environments are constructed; pedagogy is employed; student-student and staff-student relationships are developed; modules, classes and assessments are interlinked; institutional, course, staff and student expectations are shared; and student skill and attitude to learning are supported.

Millican, R., Middleton, T., Perry-Harry, T., Holmes, L., Bond, J. and Abdalla, O. (2023) An exploration of factors influencing undergraduate student engagement at a UK university. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 14(2). Available at: [Accessed 27 May, 2024].