Key Information

Year of Project: 18-19

Number of student partners: 4

Number of staff partners:  2

Length of project:  10 months

Weekly time commitment for student: 3 hours per week. 

Read the student's Stories of Partnership with their Educational research experience

Life Sciences/EDU Collaboration

Staff partners: Dr Tiffany Chiu and Dr Magda Charalambous

Project area: Educational Research

Student partners: Nadia Gjerdingen (Mechanical Engineering, 2nd year), Shiyao Ke (Life Sciences, final year), Dana Chow (Life Sciences, final year), Maja Wojtynska (Life Sciences, 2nd year)

Background for project

This StudentShapers project aimed to enhance scholarship and interdisciplinary skills through a research partnership with Imperial students. Students were given the opportunity to engage with and experience in an educational research project which looked into views and expectations of what it means to be a university student. The project was a continuation of an existing research area being undertaken in the Centre for Higher Education and Scholarship. Student participation in this project has enhanced their communication, research and critical skills for future employment.


We held mutual respect for each other throughout the project with the understanding that as students, we relied on our staff partners, while they depended on us for our ability to understand a student’s perspective more vividly"



StudentShapers researchers conducted 12 focus groups (each lasted around an hour) with 53 students from over ten undergraduate STEM degree programmes. All data were transcribed verbatim for thematic analysis and the researchers were introduced to the qualitative software NVivo 12 to manage, organise and analyse the data.

A fuller write-up of the research outcomes is currently underway, with plans to present both in internal learning and teaching seminars/events/workshops and educational research networks (e.g. CHERSNet). External dissemination will focus on organisations (e.g. Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), Advance HE) with an interest in higher education.

Benefits to student learning and further outcomes

This project provided students with a valuable platform to experience qualitative educational research which supports their development of interdisciplinary scholarship and a sense of professional identity. Students’ reflections on their role of being a qualitative researcher in their reflective writing also demonstrate their increased sensitivity towards the difference and respective values between quantitative and qualitative research, with often only the former featured in their degree programmes. 

This project contributes to the ongoing effort to make the expectations of staff and students more explicit and transparent."



This project topic contributes to the ongoing effort to make the expectations of staff and students more explicit and transparent. The pedagogical implications from the project outcomes will support the process of curriculum innovation/transformation and be applicable across disciplines at Imperial. The data collected will help to inform our understanding of what it means to be an Imperial university student as well as the ways in which we work with students as partners, leading to developments of a more inclusive and diverse learning and teaching community.