This project has been designed to intervene in social exclusion and inequality. By valuing the knowledge and insights of student co-researchers, advanced research and practice experience will be acquired. In short, this project models social inclusion within our own HEI’s and local communities.
According to the European Commission (2017), education is the basis for a fair, open and democratic society, and for long-term growth and employment. The commission identifies significant challenges for people from under-privileged socio-economic backgrounds, who are less likely to enter and complete higher education. A review of 70 international research articles on first generation students conclude that educational achievements within higher education are closely related to social background (Spiegler & Bednarek, 2013). According to this review, first generation students are more likely to study at less prestigious universities and are underrepresented in advanced degree programmes (ibid). First generation students are more likely to choose a distance-learning institution or a university close to home. Their contributions to university life may reflect shortcomings, a lack of knowledge of the student role and they are less involved in student life (ibid). Whilst the review would suggest that academic performance generally compares favourably to other students, first generation students have a higher risk of attrition (dropout) and this is at the highest during their first two academic years (ibid). Attrition remains high even after controlling for ethnicity, gender, grades, family income and type of academic institution (ibid). Students from under-privileged backgrounds are more likely to drop out of university and are more likely to withdraw from their studies early, in spite of a successful academic profile (Lehmann, 2007).