Exploring students’ experiences of success and well-being at university.

Students’ sense of success and well-being at university is influenced by positive academic engagement, developing a sense of belonging and effective self-regulated learning skills. Indeed, students who are thriving at university often describe feeling ‘energised’ by the learning process, enjoying the challenge of expanding their ideas and working hard to achieve their personal goals. Yet much of our early research has shown that less than 10% of our first year students report a sense of thriving and 29% describe themselves as only ‘just surviving’. Previous research has also shown that many students transitioning to university have unrealistic expectations of what university is going to be like, some also experience significant adversity or complexities in their personal life, particularly those coming from non-traditional backgrounds who are the first member of their family or community to enter university. This seminar draws on the findings of three research projects that broadly examined students’ expectations and experiences of transitioning to university, the challenges and adversities they experienced, the impact on their health and well-being and the factors they perceived to have enabled their success at university. Findings indicate that whilst many students experienced significant adversity that impacted on their ability to study those who described themselves as ‘succeeding’ felt empowered by their university experience. They enjoyed the challenge of academic work, set realistic goals, experienced strong positive growth and development, and felt intrinsically connected socially and academically to their new learning environment. This seminar will conclude with a critical review of the current measures of ‘success’ at university, namely GPA and retention and propose new measures that incorporate elements of health and well-being that enable students to develop the skills they need to realise their full potential.