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No place like home: exploring the student residential experience in the context of a rapidly changing student accommodation sector

   School of Social Sciences

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  Dr Sue Dymoke, Dr Verity Aiken, Dr Katherine Friend  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that people worldwide were asked to stay at home in their variegated ‘living quarters’ (Shortt & Izak, 2020), revealing the uneven nature of residential resources (Aiken 2020). University student accommodation, an aspect of student life, sits squarely at the junction of student experience, wellbeing, and wider financial questions such as ‘value for money’ (Howard et al., 2022; Savage et al., 2021); and therefore, issues of equity are complicated further by the transitional and precarious nature of student housing (Aiken 2021). Drawing from Lefebvre’s (1991) theory of ‘the production of space’ with a foregrounding of ‘the right to the city’ concept, this research project will explore a series of individualized stories representing those who find themselves living in gentrified and studentified spaces (Hubbard 2009) that are neither connected to the university (per se) nor the community. In doing so, the study will contribute further to understanding the uneven student experience in relation to spaces (Friend, 2020), and the need to theorise what the fast-changing landscape of student accommodation means for individual students. Thus, the research explores how a largely unregulated private sector and a burgeoning purpose-built student accommodation sector (Mulhearn & Franco, 2018) contribute to the ways that students conceive of their student residential experience at the levels of academic, social, and civic life. Using an ethnographic approach that harnesses storytelling (Alrutz 2013) and photo elicitation (Copes et al 2018), student stories will be analysed and co-constructed to better understand the landscape of undergraduate student housing at one East Midlands university. The overarching research aim will be to: ‘explore the ways in which the nature of student accommodation spaces shapes the student experience’, and will be guided by the following research questions:   

  • How do undergraduate students account for their experiences of living in private and purpose-built accommodation?     
  • In what ways does a student’s understanding of their housing experience affect their wellbeing while attending university    
  • Do students view their student accommodation as connected to university and community life, or do they see the creation of boundaries which divide them from the community?    
  • What would students change about the nature of student accommodation, if they were given opportunities to do so, including possibilities for how they might want to live and connect with university and civic communities?  
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