This blog is written by Paresh Shah, Research Manager, London Higher. It originally appeared as a case study in HEPI’s report Homeward Bound: Defining, understanding and aiding ‘commuter students’ by David Maguire and David Morris.
During 2016/17, nearly 93,000 full-time first degree UK students were domiciled in London and remained in the capital for their undergraduate studies, making up 47 per cent of this student group.
London Higher is leading a pilot project studying the experiences of commuter students in London, begun in early 2018. The aim is to understand the experience of commuting to study in higher education in London, and in particular the impact on students’ potential for progression and success.
The project is collecting both quantitative and qualitative information on students travelling to campus, whether living at home or in other accommodation (such as more distant halls of residence), with a focus on full-time first degree undergraduate students, but also considering full-time postgraduate taught students.
At each of the participating institutions, travel times by public transport have been computed in a standardised dataset, based upon HESA data, using term-time accommodation and campus postcodes, before being analysed using logistic regression with progression and continuation as the dependent binary variables. Factors tested for significance include travel time, gender, ethnicity, subject of study and entry qualifications.
Preliminary results from five institutions indicate similar outcomes, with the significant predictors for progression including subject area for study, entry tariff or qualifications, and travel time. The initial findings indicate that students who have longer commuting times have significantly lower progression rates, with other factors being constant. For one institution, analyses using the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), found students from the most deprived areas have longer travel times and significantly lower progression rates compared with students from the least deprived areas. The outputs are being collated for an initial report in late 2018.
The project is also conducting focus groups with commuter students to better understand: students’ reasons and experiences in commuting; academic and social engagement; and personal commitments, including part-time work. It will also cover suggestions for enhancing the student experience, such as changes to campus facilities.