Reconceptualising student experiences: exploring embodiment and identity through differential HE space

Fatema Khatun, Amanda French, Rob Smith


Despite the emergence of a body of literature about the student experience, how students of diverse backgrounds experience life and learning across the higher education (HE) sector remains under-researched. This article draws data from a small pilot study that explored this issue in Birmingham City University. The researchers, who comprised staff and students, deliberately worked against the grain of the emerging audit-centred university culture around a homogenised consumerist ‘student experience’. The research team (consisting of staff and a MA student) used identity boxes to create a safe space for students to talk with staff and other students about themselves. Findings indicated that the use of artefacts enables the mediation of emerging student identities and so confirmed the value of this method as an embodied experience. A key finding suggested that making it easier for students from black and South Asian backgrounds to discuss and explore their personal sense of embodiment in this way can open up a ‘differential HE space’, bringing with it positive educational benefits for them as uncompromisingly self-determining students.


Embodiment; student experience; student identities; Widening Participation; differential HE space.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.