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Exploring the impact of social connectedness upon well-being in undergraduates at a UK business school

Kilner, G. (2018) Exploring the impact of social connectedness upon well-being in undergraduates at a UK business school. EdD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Positive psychology focuses upon well-being and encourages the individual development of resilience and social connectedness. This study seeks to understand how connectedness is initiated and maintained over the student lifecycle and how it supports students’ well-being through its role in social integration, academic assimilation and acculturation. The study was conducted amongst undergraduate students on two specific programmes at a UK business school, based in a campus university in the south-east of England. The methodology consisted of two steps. In the first step, background information was collected, and connectedness, happiness and resilience scales were used to collect data on the students’ states of well-being. The scale data were used in a cluster analysis to enable students in relatively high states of well-being to be benchmarked to students of less high states of well-being through semi structured interviews. Findings show that students maintain as much connectedness to their previous lives as to their new lives as students. This is positive because it provides strong and continuous support and some protection against the adversities that students face but it is accompanied by a lack of belonging to their programme, the business school or the institution. Some UK-domiciled students appear to be moving to a semi-commuter model of university engagement, whereas international students have no option but to follow the traditional semi-permanently leaving home model. Environmental influences, for example, accommodation in first and second years or the amount of change which these students are subject to, appear to influence students’ entire university experience. Each year of the programmes has specific issues relating to connectedness; perhaps with the exception of fourth-year finalists. Some first-year students fail to connect effectively. Some second-year students have incompatibility issues with their accommodation partners with the strains of seeking placements and the realisation of results starting to count. Some third-year students feel disappointed to not have secured a placement and may be overwhelmed by sharing modules with fourth-year finalists. The study raised issues of acculturation and diversity because it was perceived, by some, to be difficult to make friends with white British students. Well-connected students in high states of well-being had positive personality traits, were selfaware, were open and had positive coping and problem-solving styles and made more academic progress during their studies. Students in a lower state of wellbeing had less well-developed positive traits and some demonstrated a need to hold back to protect themselves; others were uncomfortable with some aspects of social media. The study was aimed at researching connectedness throughout the UK student lifecycle because existing research focuses mainly upon initial transition. Most existing studies in this area are US based and the history of diversity issues and the social and economic considerations are different to those of the UK. The conclusions of the study indicate that the institution needs to consider how it might engender an innate sense of belonging and support diversity in today’s students. The implications for the business school in terms of an overload of change, large programme size and the structure and role of personal tutoring are discussed.

Item Type:Thesis (EdD)
Thesis Supervisor:Bilton, H., Graham, S., Berkley, R. and Knox, S.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:84857

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