Diversity of Student Experience research project

New publication shares thought provoking insights and recommendations

Enhancing research and evaluation for addressing degree awarding gaps, published by the Evaluation Collective on 18 May 2023, shares insights and recommendations from a symposium organised by Diversity of Student Experience research project principal investigator, Dr Elizabeth Rahman


What is the Diversity of Student Experience research project?



Original artwork created for this project by Ruthie Liu, 1st year undergraduate student at Ruskin College, Feb 2023


The Diversity of Student Experience research project is an in-house inquiry into how students from diverse backgrounds participate in learning at Oxford.

The project is being led by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, in collaboration with the Department for Education, the Student Union, and Student Welfare and Support Services, including the Disability Advisory Service.

The findings of the project will contribute to the University's revised Access and Participation Plan and associated actions.


Access and participation plans set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups to access, succeed in and progress from higher education. 

Access and participation plans - Office for Students


How is the project funded and when will it present its findings?

The University's Diversity Fund has provided funding to support the piloting of a range of participatory methods to understand how the everyday lives of students at Oxford influence their educational experiences.

The project team will start to present their findings of the pilot phase in Michaelmas term 2023.

What is driving the project?

Higher education has moved away from a focus on the personal shortcomings or ‘deficits’ of individuals, or groups of individuals, that prevent them from attaining higher grades.

As a result, the lower statistic point average in degree outcomes for students, especially for black and disabled students, is now referred to as an ‘awarding’ gap, rather than ‘attainment’ gap. This shifts the gaze to systemic and structural barriers to learning on-course and perpetuated by institutional culture, curriculum and pedagogy, within which interpersonal barriers may also be reproduced. 

The Diversity of Student Experience project is aimed at capturing the lived realities, and the opinions and attitudes, of a range of undergraduates and masters' students at the University. Findings will inform the University’s Access and Participation Plan and the implementation of its activities.

If you are interested in finding out more, the blog post Enhancing research and evaluation for addressing degree awarding gaps, published by the Evaluation Collective on 18 May 2023, shares insights and recommendations from a symposium organised by the principal investigator for the Diversity of Student Experience research project, Dr Elizabeth Rahman, Centre for Teaching and Learning.

How does the project work?

The project considers how the learning environment is experienced by students with a range of personal characteristics or circumstances (eg disability, health, gender identity, ethnicity or home background) and explores affirmation and denigration within contexts of learning.

Investigative analysis considers the prevalence of challenges experienced by students, including but not limited to those from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, and how these relate to degree outcomes.

Using developmental evaluation to facilitate change around indeterminate and socially complex issues, the project adopts the adage ‘nothing about us, without us’ to help ensure work is conducted in service of the needs and interests of those who Access and Participation Plans are asked to target.

How can I be involved?

For staff

Sign up to the Staff-Student Enquiry research stream. RECRUITMENT NOW CLOSED.

For students

Join an Undergraduate Student Advisory Group.

Further opportunities for staff and student involvement in this research project will be announced soon. For students, these will be announced in Student News. For staff, sign up to our mailing list to be advised.

Who do I contact for further information?

For further information about this project, or to provide comments or suggestions, please contact Dr Elizabeth Rahman (Senior Evaluation Officer, Centre for Teaching and Learning) at contact@ctl.ox.ac.uk.

Links of interest

IncludED. Helping all students make the most of Oxford's education

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