What does an inclusive and sustainable student centred timetable look like in the age of the commuting student?

Page, Nigel, Forster-Wilkins, Gary, Hughes, Anne and Bonetzky, Mark (2019) What does an inclusive and sustainable student centred timetable look like in the age of the commuting student? In: HEIR Conference 2019 : Measuring Excellence in Higher Education: Approaches and their Impact; 11 - 13 Sep 2019, Wolverhampton, U.K..


Widening participation has encouraged students from a diverse range of backgrounds into university. Yet, this presents challenges to ensuring not only a connected transition but one that is inclusive and positive in which all students are able to engage. None more so is this diversity found than at the post-92 universities, where many students face long commutes from the communities, they live each day, which they did not previously have. This potentially hinders their ability to fully participate and can adversely affect their sense of belonging. Moreover, timetabling related issues are found to be predominant responses in student surveys including the NSS. In London, these challenges have been compounded by lower scores in NSS/TEF (which have been referred to as the ‘London effect’) and where the prevalence of commuting students likely plays a major role in making it harder for these universities to establish effective learning communities that students feel part of. Our own results from of a study involving over 500 undergraduate students across the life sciences, chemistry and pharmacy at Kingston University has shown a strong negative correlation between the impact of travel time and ‘the timetable works efficiently for me’ (Q16NSS), which was independent of ethnicity or gender. Moreover, significant demographic differences are observed, where White, mixed White and Chinese students are found living in a very tight radius (3.77mi) around the university with the majority (64%) being able to walk, use the university bus or cycle and 75% within 0-30min. This was in comparison to Black African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab students, who lived in a much broader radius (7.24mi) with only 29% being able to walk/use the university bus, and where 60% relied on public transport with more complex journeys and travel times double that of most White students (av.60mins). With timetabling playing such a major role in the way students perceive and interact with their learning environment understanding the challenges faced in developing more inclusive learning communities becomes even more paramount. Here, we will provide a deeper insight into the impact of commuting and timetabling on student lives that is accompanied by student/staff narratives (including from our head of timetabling), to what a sustainable student centred timetable should look like whilst at the same time highlighting the areas where significant work remains.

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