Our project started in May 2020 and by November, the team conducted interviews with 110 students STEMM students from underrepresented groups at Imperial and the University of Reading to explore their lived experiences, including suggestions on how university can support underrepresented students. We are currently completing the data analysis, using NVivo 12 to code transcripts around key themes (e.g., sense of belonging, disciplinary and professional identities). Intersectional analysis is also applied, where we consider the multiple intersecting structural positions of students, including gender, ethnicity, socio-economic/class background, sexuality, and disability status. Our student participants study the following STEMM degrees – biology, medicine, engineering, physics, computer science, and mathematics. Based on the data analysis so far, we have identified some key areas of focus for pedagogical implementation and impact:

  • the transition from school to university can be very challenging for students from underrepresented groups, for example, lack of visible role models or other students in their cohort from their background, alongside students going from the top of their class in school to the competitive high-achieving environment of Imperial where they may achieve average or below average grades for the first time.
  • some students who are part of multiple ‘underrepresented’ groups seem to feel less of a sense of belonging, leading to negative impact on their experience and achievements.
  • the devolved nature of Imperial’s organisation means that it can be challenging to share ‘good practice’ in supporting underrepresented students across departments without coordination.