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.

We are currently collecting institutional perspectives and responses to student engagement in the context of commuter students. If you would like to share your perspectives and examples of practice please complete the pro forma [Download here]. Please return your completed pro forma to  by 8th April 2016.