Sheffield Student 2013: Making sense of the expectations, transitions, and realities of the student experience

Student tracking project from November 2013

Sign for directions on campus

The ‘Sheffield Student 2013’ project followed the undergraduate cohort of 2013 throughout their studies at the University of Sheffield in order to gain information about their experiences during their studies. Through employing a longitudinal research design, and following the same individuals through their undergraduate university life, we developed a deeper understanding of the multiple transitions they make whilst at university, the changes they experience, and how these experiences resonate with the university’s support networks.

This research compared the experiences of students who come from different backgrounds to provide some context to the university’s mission in widening participation and fair access. The project employed a mixed methods approach, and utilised administrative data alongside material gained directly from students and university staff. The 2013 cohort was contacted first through a pre-arrival survey before they take up their university places; after this a smaller sample of the cohort was tracked through a series of interviews for four years. This material helped the university to arrive at institutional policy recommendations regarding student support.

The project was led by WPREU with the support of academic colleagues Tom Clark from Sociology and Dan Vickers from Geography.

For more information about the project, please contact Julian Crockford (, telephone 0114 222475).

In a recent report on access agreements the Office for Fair Access used the 'Sheffield Student 2013' project as an example for good practice for connecting research and practice.

The Sheffield Student 2013 project, which employs a post-doctoral researcher to track an initial sample of 40 students across three years of study, is now in its second year. First year fieldwork undertaken by the researcher, who works in collaboration with staff from the departments of Sociology and Geography and Student Support and Guidance, has already provided detailed information about the transition process into the University of Sheffield, the financial aspects of student life and, more broadly, the student experience. Research outcome reports are prepared for both academic and practitioner audiences. (OFFA, 2015: 7)

See the University's press release for more.