Thesis (Ed.D)

“My Stomach Churns”: Belonging and Strategies for Belonging for BME Students in a White University


Student engagement and more recently belonging are concepts that have been used to explain awarding gaps for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students. However, Trowler (2010) asserts that much of the student engagement literature is essentialist in nature and treats minority groups as homogeneous. Additionally, much of the research into the experiences of BME students has taken place in more diverse UK universities. This research uses narrative inquiry to address that gap to explore the individualised experiences of belonging for BME students at a predominantly White university. Firstly, I developed a new analytical framework of student belonging, based on existing literature, to support the analysis of student interviews and to provide new insights into student belonging at university. Narrative inquiry may be considered a ‘field in the making’ (Chase 2005:651). As a result, I present new ideas on narrative analysis and reporting using a combination of approaches including Labov and Waletzky’ (1967) structural analysis, socio-cultural analysis (Grbich 2015) and creative non-fiction. The title of this thesis is a quote from Janice about how she feels coming into university. It summarises the feelings of many BME students who find that the institutional racial climate of university challenging. I describe the different strategies that BME students adopt to deal with predominately White universities based on their interactions with the institutional culture, staff and peers. These strategies predominately focus only on the academic aspect of university and getting emotional support from outside university in the form of family and wider friends. Barriers to engagement, such as having to work and commute, further distance BME students from wider university engagement. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to student belonging will not work for the students highlighted in this research and universities need to take a more nuanced approach to helping students develop a sense of belonging.

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Currant, Neil


Supervisors: Browne, Liz; Spiro, Jane

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education


Year: 2020

© Currant, Neil
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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