EMPLOYMENT / EDUCATION / TRAINING

University Students from Military Families: the same, but different

Article

This research investigated the experiences of university undergraduate students from military families at Brunel University London.

Abstract

This research investigated the experiences of university undergraduate students from military families at Brunel University London with a specific focus on the following areas: • The educational experiences the students had before coming to university and the perceived impact that this had; • The experiences they have had whilst at university, links to their previous educational experiences, any issues that have arisen, and the types of support they have drawn on; • The impact of the students’ backgrounds and circumstances, and what pastoral awareness and support may be required. The research was undertaken between June 2020 and October 2020 with undergraduate students who had described themselves as being part of a military family when they joined Brunel University London. The primary data collection involved an online questionnaire that was emailed directly to the self-identifying undergraduate students from military families, followed by an invitation to a semi- structured interview to expand on their responses and the emerging themes. Participating students came from across all three of the University’s Colleges: College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences; College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences and College of Health, Medical and Life Sciences. This report details the context of the study, the research methods used, and key findings and recommendations for Brunel and the wider higher education sector. Key findings and recommendations are summarised below. Key Findings • The students have experienced, and some continue to experience, high levels of unpredictability in their lives that may impact on their studies at university, such as the loss of a parent, separated families, moving schools, and moving house. • The experiences that these students outlined are recognisable across the university student population. However, the causes, complexities and combination of their experiences present us with a student group who are unique: ‘the same, but different’ to their peers. • None of the students reported any difficulties or challenges at Brunel, beyond those that current policy and procedures at the university are alert to. Recommendations • The University should review its commitment to this group of students at the start of each academic year to ensure that policies and procedures continue to support them as an underrepresented and unseen group in Higher Education (HE). Information should then be collected periodically to ‘check’ to ensure the University stays up to date with the issues that the students may be facing and take steps to support them. • Ensure all staff, including Senior Tutors, Personal Tutors, Academic and Student Welfare services are made aware of the combination of experiences that this group of students face, with a specific emphasis on the uniqueness, thus the lack of homogeneity. • The University to involve the Union of Brunel Students in discussions relating to students from military families, and the contribution they may make to the University community as well as the support they may require. • Given that this research could only investigate the experiences of the students who attend Brunel University London, the University should continue to look at how it can aid recruitment and widen participation among this group by working with the local and national communities. • Given the diversity in the characteristics of the participants, the number of participants in the study and the range of their experiences, we propose that further research with these students is vital.

Full Reference

Ince, C., Chappell, A. and McHugh, E. (2021) University Students from Military Families: The Same but Different. Uxbridge: Brunel University London, 32 pp. ISBN: 9781908549501. Available at: https://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/22794