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Collaborative Innovation Project

Unveiling Student Experiences: The Being, Belonging, Becoming Survey

Project Lead: Professor Harriet Dunbar-Morris, NTF, PFHEA, Pro Vice-Chancellor Academic and Professor of Higher Education, University of Buckingham. Dr Andy Clegg, NTF, SFHEA, Associate Professor in Academic Innovation and Enhancement, University of Portsmouth. Kathryn Lyndon, Research Assistant, University of Portsmouth.

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the intricate web of student experiences is crucial (Meehan and Howells, 2018). This is precisely where the Being, Belonging, Becoming (BBB) survey comes into its own. It is a tool designed to explore and evaluate student wellbeing, community integration, and personal growth initiatives within academic settings. This blog post introduces the pilot BBB survey and explores some of the initial results from the survey pilot.

At the heart of the BBB survey lies a focus on unpicking the multifaceted dimensions of student life. Unlike more traditional student surveys, this tool navigates through the elements of being, belonging, and becoming, examining different aspects of the student journey – from initial impressions of academic staff to the intricacies of personal tutoring.

With benchmarked survey data, such as the National Student Survey (NSS), no longer providing a comprehensive assessment of students’ sense of belonging, the BBB project aims to fill the void with a comprehensive evaluation tool (Dunbar-Morris, 2023). This survey provides quantitative data and some key open-ended questions. It covers the core areas of focus of those who endeavour to enhance student experiences, offering invaluable insights for academic institutions.

Using data-backed insights, institutions can shape and evaluate strategies that resonate with student needs (Lowe et al., 2023). The BBB survey is a powerful instrument for institutional decision-making, empowering academic institutions to foster inclusive environments and enhance support mechanisms. Ultimately, it lays the groundwork for nurturing vibrant academic communities where every student feels valued and supported.

For institutions aiming to evaluate how they support student belonging and the wider context (see Figure 1 below) the BBB survey will be available, following the current sector pilot.

The survey is being piloted, with support from Evasys, and the funding from the ANTF, with 15 institutions across the UK nations in a variety of settings stages and levels, e.g.: undergraduate; postgraduate; course; institution. The intention is to develop and refine the survey as an evaluation tool of initiatives that enhance students’ BBB at an appropriate level and stage within an institution.

Question groupings in the pilot BBB survey cover:

• First impressions of staff (belonging)

• First impressions of study (being, belonging)

• Peer relationships (belonging)

• Perceptions about own experience (being, belonging)

• Relationships with university academic staff (belonging)

• Personal tutoring experience (being, belonging, becoming)

• Access to technology (belonging)

• Overall student experience and satisfaction

Some Pilot Results:

Support and Enrichment: The survey reveals insights into the effectiveness of support mechanisms and enrichment programs. Institutions can leverage this data to refine and enhance their support services, ensuring students can thrive academically and personally. Pilot results indicate the following uses of the student feedback and survey data:

  • Identify areas where current support mechanisms need enhancement.
  • Implement targeted interventions to enhance support e.g. academic tutoring, mental health counselling, and career advising.
  • Develop or expand enrichment programs based on student preferences and needs.

Academic Community: Insights from the survey shed light on students’ perceptions of the academic community and how successfully institutions have created a sense of belonging and connection for students. Pilot results indicate the following uses:

  • Analyse survey results to understand what factors contribute to a strong sense of community among students and faculty.
  • Implement and evaluate strategies to strengthen relationships and collaboration within the academic community, e.g. mentorship programs, interdisciplinary projects, and inclusive classroom environments.

Mental Health: The survey captures data on student mental health and wellbeing. By identifying potential stressors and challenges students face, institutions can develop and evaluate targeted interventions and support initiatives to promote mental wellbeing and resilience among the student body. Pilot results indicate the following uses:

  • Identify everyday stressors and challenges impacting student mental health.
  • Develop and evaluate targeted mental health support programs and resources tailored to address specific needs, e.g. stress management workshops, counselling services, and peer support networks.
  • Implement early intervention strategies to identify and support students who may be at risk of mental health concerns.

As well as the above, results also cover suggestions for feedback and PDPs, wellbeing support, transition support, and induction programs. The Being, Belonging, Becoming survey with its examination of student experiences is part of a new era of data-driven decision-making. Institutions that adopt the survey and its approach can cultivate vibrant, inclusive, and inventive academic environments. If you would like to find out more about using the survey in your institution, please contact Kathryn Lyndon for information.


Dunbar-Morris, H. (2023)

Lowe, T., Dunbar-Morris, H., Dutka-Bowskill, N., & Owen, D. (2023). Better student outcomes at University of Portsmouth–how data informed targeted intervention can support student success. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education29.

Meehan, C. & Howells, K. (2018) ‘What really matters to freshers?’: evaluation of first year student experience of transition into university, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(7)

More information:

For more information, follow the project collaborators via X (Twitter) @HE_Harriet @CleggDr @KathrynLyndon

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