Research Design

To achieve social inclusion, this project engages transnational and regional partnerships to embed work-based/vocational skills. Validation of the knowledge and insights of student co-researchers will enable the acquisition of advanced research- and practitioner-skills when working with ESL/NEET groups.

This Transnational Higher Education Institution (HEI) project seeks to transform the stigmatising experiences of Early School Leaving (ESL) and young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). By re-positioning economically disadvantaged students (Primary Target Group) as assets within HEI settings and through curriculum modernisation, students participate as co-researchers. The informants, our Second Target Group, are young people with ESL/NEET experience and students who are affected by factors that might hinder them in completing upper secondary school.


  1. Dominant paradigms of ESL/NEET need be replaced with new knowledge that prioritises relationships. 
  2. University students previously in the category NEET/ESL and now currently in pursuit of higher education need to be promoted and included.
  3. Research on the process leading to ESL and NEET needs to be developed through cooperation with students previously in the category NEET/ESL.
  4. The reasons listed above indicate the need to equip these students to pursue higher educational degrees (MA/PhD) and/or enhance the employability of these students upon completion of their higher education. To achieve this, Bachelor and Master programs that share a closer link with the research, should be developed. NEET/ESL students are included as co-researchers and will be assisted in publishing their research in an open access journal made for this purpose. This will equip the students with enhanced research skills and increase their employability.

Social innovations

We want to

  • Modernise teaching, learning and assessment within HEIs by developing an online Research Module of the «indirect methodology».
  • Include ESL/NEET student as co-researchers and co-creators to enhance retention, employability and academic progression.
  • Produce comparative biographies of subject-to-subject based regional experiences of ESL/NEET and social exclusion.
  • Utilise empirical data to develop «deprivation literacy».
  • Disseminate Relationship Models in HEI settings to help improve student retention rate, and in other settings for education and services where the ESL/NEET experience is relevant.
  • Publish an open access journal to disseminate findings and work produced by this project. 


Summary of IO1-6

Academics from USN, VIA and UoC have contributed to all activities and IOs. The USN had the overall responsibility to plan, coordinate, monitor and evaluate the project. The project teams at each HEI were responsible for planning, designing and producing IOs. All activities, in one way or another, contribute to either teaching or training students to succeed, and are vital for the completion of the project.

  • IO1 is the Online Research Module Designing of modules for the Bachelor and Master pathways validated and credited within each HEI. 
  • IO2 is the Indirect Approach Training package and handbook The training package includes a handbook for students, academics and external stakeholders. The empiric-based handbook translates findings for practical application of the method, with both guidance for research projects with marginalised young people and advice regarding challenges and best-practice examples. 
  • IO3 is the Research-based HE model Empirical data generated by student co-researchers working with ESL/NEET is combined with sociological theories of marginalisation to produce an unique model. The model will modernize HEI systems and processes and improve the student retention rate at non-traditional universities offering vocational/professional programs. 
  • IO4 is the Open Access Journal: The co-researchers scientific papers are published in «The Journal of Youth Voices in Education: Methods Theory Practice». This journal contributes to create a transnational body of literature on ESL/NEET. Academic staff from each HEI has supported students in writing contributions to the journal. 
  • IO5 is the Book and Academic papers by Students and Faculty. Academic staff supported the co-researchers in producing academic papers. Students received support in co-authoring chapters with their supervisors to be peer-reviewed to ensure quality and rigour. 
  • IO6 is the Model on working effectively with ESL Empirical data generated by co-researchers undertaken with ELS/NEET is combined with sociological theories of marginalisation in the process of producing this model. The model will help to modernise social care, welfare and secondary education systems.