Encouraging students to engage with extra-curricular activities, such as consultation opportunities, can be difficult. Students may face barriers which can result in them not wanting to engage with their provider.
For example, a 2015 report from Universities UK and the National Union of Students (NUS) examined reasons why students do not participate in volunteering opportunities.
This research can be widened to give insight into why students choose not to engage with access and participation activities.
To demonstrate, we have adapted some of the key barriers to engagement that were identified in the report to relate to access and participation plans. The barriers include:
- a lack of understanding – students do not know what an access and participation plan is, what it is for and why they should engage with it
- different motivations – students have varied interests and may not realise that they can get involved in different aspects of the plan, for example development, implementation or monitoring
- limited time – there are many demands on students’ time and this can limit their capacity to contribute
- inflexibility – formal routes to engage in the plan may deter some students
- space restrictions – confining engagement to one physical or virtual space could limit the potential to reach the diverse population
- inaccessibility – students may have a perception that engagement is overly bureaucratic or complicated.
REACT’s ‘systematic literature review of ‘hard to reach’ students and methods of inclusive engagement’ may be useful for providers to understand the barriers for specific student groups.
The Higher Education Academy’s 2014 ‘engagement through partnership’ report suggests ways of overcoming the tensions between staff and student motivations. It suggests creating an open and honest relationship which recognises benefits and boundaries while also creating opportunities for ongoing communication.