Commuter student aspirations and outcomes: Why don’t they add up?

Commuter students – who continue to live in the family home while they study – are students with high aspirations to achieve a good degree and secure a graduate job. But, commuter students have lower rates of continuation, academic achievement and graduate employment. This poses a significant challenge for higher education providers that have high numbers of commuter students, as poorer outcomes are detrimental to students, and have negative consequences for institutions. Read the full blog here, or attend the Student Experience Conference 2019 to learn more.

Commuter students in London

The majority of students studying at higher education institutions in London have to commute to study, irrespective of whether they choose to live with their family, on their own or in student accommodation. A research study commissioned by London Higher considers the extent to which ‘commuting’ impacts students’ outcomes, particularly continuation and progression. The study combines the analysis of institutional data with qualitatively-oriented workshops with commuter students exploring their experiences, identifying practices that support them to succeed and considering what would further improve their experience. The summary findings will be discussed on 18th June 2019 during London HE Week, prior to the launch of a report informed by discussion at the event.

Student engagement in the context of commuter students: Student experiences

Liz Thomas Associates has been commissioned by The Student Engagement Partnership ( to explore student engagement in the context of commuter students. This study recognises that ‘commuter students’, who live away from the university or college and travel to attend, may experience challenges in relation to their engagement beyond the classroom. It seeks to explore how these issues are experienced by students and institutions, and what can be done to improve engagement and student outcomes.

The overall aim of this applied research project is to develop practical understanding about the engagement of commuter students in higher education, and how engagement can be enhanced by purposive actions of higher education providers (HEPs) and/or students’ unions (SUs). More specifically, the objectives are to:

i. Describe the nature of the challenge higher education providers (HEPs) face in relation to the engagement of commuter students.
ii. Document the kinds of initiatives that providers and students’ unions (SUs) are developing to increase student engagement.
iii. Identify what works to improve the engagement (and wider outcomes) of commuter students.
iv. Develop guidance and resources for HEPs and SUs wanting to enhance the engagement of commuter students.

The key outputs of this study will be a practically-oriented report and examples or case studies of effective practice to support.
We are using a broad understanding of commuter students, including any undergraduate or postgraduate students who travel to their higher education provider from their parental or family home (which they lived in prior to entering higher education) rather than having re-located to live in student accommodation (or close to the HEP) for the purposes of studying.
We are also using a broad understanding of engagement including:

i. Academic: Engagement in their own learning.
ii. Enhancement: Engagement in co-curricular and enhancement activities (including representation, curriculum design and leadership roles) which contribute to personal and professional development; and
iii. Social: Engagement in formal and informal sport, social and leisure activities with HE peers.

 You can read the report here >