contested territory

Full-time study not only holds the centre ground of English higher education (HE), it crowds the whole territory, pushing different ways of engaging with higher level study to a strategically precarious periphery.  In my doctoral research, I take on the influential narrative of ‘belonging in HE’, which has become so entangled with ideas about student retention.  My thesis re-imagines belonging in HE for mature part-time undergraduates peripherally positioned in the English sector.  It does so by drawing on spatial, psychosocial and psychogeographical ideas to map a more nuanced territory, to theorise ‘belonging’ through concepts of space and power.  Its findings disrupt a dominant, reductive narrative and emphasise instead, a rich territory of persistence and shared ownership; of belonging as a complex, negotiated process in the contested space of HE.  Institutional approaches to strategy and practice which acknowledge and encompass multiple versions of ‘belonging in HE’ increase HE’s capacity to engage with all its students more meaningfully.