European survey report “University as community: students’ perceptions of participation, engagement and belonging at European higher education institutions”

What values ​​are most important to students?  What to focus on if you want to engage young people: current important topics or their motivations? The UNICOMM Project consortium invites you to read the report “University as community: students’ perceptions of participation, engagement and belonging at European higher education institutions” – the result of a survey conducted among 465 students of European higher education institutions from over 20 countries.

The publication is addressed not only for employees of universities and student organizations. It can also be a valuable source of knowledge for institutions or NGOs whose target group are young people and for the audience interested in generational changes.

University as community: students’ perceptions of participation,
engagement and belonging at European higher education institutions

What inspired the UNICOMM Project?

The idea of the UNICOMM – University Community Active Participation Project comes from the belief that higher education institutions (HEIs) are more than academic courses and research, and that all the people within these institutions should feel motivated to be engaged in the initiatives they find meaningful. Recent events that increase the level of uncertainty have highlighted the importance of relationships and being part of a group, but they also proved that rapidly-changing conditions make it difficult to strengthen the bonds and enhance the sense of belonging. For this reason the main aims of the project are to:

  • identify the patterns and factors that support the incorporation of inclusive and active student participation, 
  • enhance students’ competences to allow them to fully participate in the inclusive HEI community,
  • create guidelines and recommendations regarding HEI organizational structures in the context of uncertain times and rapid changes.
Focus on expectations, needs and bond-building factors

The primary focus of the UNICOMM Project is to investigate students and HEI staff expectations and needs. Therefore, the first project activity was the preparation of a survey aiming at the analysis of the bond-building factors between students and HEIs understood as both institutions and communities consisting of various actors. The consortium invited students across Europe to fill out the questionnaire and share their opinions in order to verify the project initial assumptions. 

The results of the research were described in the “University as community: students’ perceptions of participation, engagement and belonging at European higher education institutions” report which covers the btopics:

  • Students’ views on their relationship with HEI and its supporting function.
  • Students’ perceptions of their own role and connection with the institution.
  • Types of students’ extracurricular activities and participation modalities. 
  • Most important motivations for student engagement.
  • Topics that are important for the students. 
  • Students’ perceptions of the relationships with different members of the HEI’s community.
  • Challenges of student life and ways of dealing with problems.
  • Information about connections with other students and their peer relations.
  • Information about students’ priorities in terms of the time and planning of various activities and responsibilities.
  • Values important for students. 

The UNICOMM Project aims at incorporating diverse voices into shaping the community of European HEIs and enhancing equal access to the HEIs’ academic and non-academic offerings. International and working students often have less opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities and in the life of the academic community due to language, cultural and time barriers. Therefore, part of the Report is focused on these two groups of students in order to grasp their point of view and create inclusive activities and spaces for the enhancement of belonging.

Why is it worth reaching for the report?

The survey results show that students are rather eager to engage in activities within the institution. Thus, it is beneficial for all the parties if HEIs are supporting possibilities of engagement in the extracurricular activities, not necessarily connected with the course of studies. Through such activities, the institution’s community is strengthened, and the feeling of belonging grows. Knowledge about students’ motivations can be an important signpost for the HEIs working on the offer of extracurricular activities and aiming at the increase in students’ participation. The report highlights a number of practical recommendations that can be implemented.

The report will also be helpful in designing and implementing activities aimed at improving the qualifications of people working with students. Based on its results, HEIs can determine directions for the development of soft skills and competences of their employees.

Moreover, the Report illustrates the generational change and the influence of the uncertain times and rapid changes on young people.

Download the report: UNICOMM SURVEY REPORT (PDF 3,13 MB)

Unicomm Project is co-funded by the European Union

Project coordinator
University Of Warsaw
(Volunteer Centre of the University of Warsaw)

Project partners

  • University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria
  • Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • European Students’ Union, Belgium
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