Belonging to university
: the experience of undergraduate students who are parents

  • Marion Ruth Longshadow

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Rising numbers of undergraduate students are ensuring that participation in higher education is a normative pathway to professional development. Students who are also parenting return to HE for a variety of reasons but often to improve their employment prospects. In university, they intersect with traditional and non-traditional students but have their own unique challenges. Very little is known about this group but what the literature has shown is that they have rarely followed the normal trajectory of entering university after compulsory education ends, they have more personal life and work experiences than traditional students and they may have very different aspirations and motivations to study than is typically expected of an undergraduate student. Unlike the traditional student model of a young, carefree and independent person, students who are parents are inextricably bound to maintaining and supporting their family life as they study. These differences place them in a unique position as students. Students who are parents often have substantial life experiences but their alternative pathways into university mean they have little in common with many other students, facing casual discrimination and at risk of being othered among a younger, unburdened majority. Yet they are adaptable, capable students who strive to make themselves at home in HE. Through Thematic Analysis, this study explores the experience of eight undergraduate students who are parents in a research university. The perceptions of these students in relation to their sense of belonging in their university is investigated in the context of their lives as parents. This exploration includes exploring the nature of their pathways into university, the responsibilities they manage alongside their studies and the relationships students who are parents make with others in university.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSaffron Passam (Supervisor) & Martine Robson (Supervisor)

Cite this