UCL Changemakers


Student Integration and Inclusion: Making the UCL community even more welcoming

This case study describes a student-led project aimed at investigating how Brexit has impacted the student experience at UCL.

29 July 2021

Case study by Manuela Sadik

What was the aim of your project?

This project was motivated by a desire to determine whether the UK’s departure from the EU had impacted the experiences of EU and international students at UCL. We wanted to investigate the extent to which these students engage with the wider UCL community and whether they view UCL as a welcoming institution.

Some topics of inquiry included:

  • Whether there were any overarching trends or significant differences between student experiences at UCL
  • Whether these trends vary along different lines, e.g. between home and overseas students, and between undergraduates and postgraduates (both taught and research
  • What students viewed as examples of successful initiatives at UCL (in this context) 
  • What suggestions students have concerning areas of improvement

The goal was to use our findings to inform practical recommendations for staff and students, regarding ways of improving student cohesion, inclusion and community at UCL.

What did you do?

We utilised various research tools, such as questionnaires and one-to-one interviews, in order to collect the relevant data. The questions we asked covered a wide range of topics, ranging from the ways in which students had built their social circles to the ratio of international to home students among their current connections.

Around 280 students responded to our online questionnaire, providing insightful information not only on their perception and thoughts relating to integration and inclusion at UCL but also on how this could be improved. The in-depth comments and elaboration provided by students during their interviews further enabled us to corroborate and enrich this data. 

To ensure that our research sample was representative/reflective of the entire UCL student body, we made our questionnaire available to all students across the university. We also made sure that the interviewed respondents were from different departments and levels of study.

What were the main successes of the project?

We would consider our questionnaire a success due to the high volume of responses obtained. The opportunity to conduct one-to-one interviews with some of these respondents was also very empowering/insightful as it allowed us to discuss and learn about issues that were important to them on a more personal level. As such, our biggest success was definitely creating an opportunity for the student voice to be heard and acknowledged, both via the questionnaire and the interview.

Our success can be attributed to clear communication and a strong team effort as it meant that our work and conduction of the project was well-organised and efficient. Everyone worked as a team to provide their input and complete each research phase. Overall, it laid some solid foundations for us to possibly expand this research and actually continue working on these issues. 

What difficulties did you face during your project? What would you do differently?

Had we had more time, we think it would have been useful to run a series of focus groups in order to further consolidate our findings. The scope of the project was quite wide, making it more ambitious than focusing on a single aspect or guiding question, but this allowed us to try and build as comprehensive an overview of integration and inclusion at UCL as possible.

What impact has your project had? On whom?

It is, as far as we are aware, the first research study of its kind at a university. As such, we hope that it will inspire broader, university-wide discussion on this topic and impact both staff and students. For example, administrators who need to tackle any lack of integration within their departments or students who, through initiatives, will be given the chance to meet a wider range of people and diversify their social circles.

Nonetheless, as this project was geared towards student wellbeing, we wanted it to have the most impact on students. To ensure this, we focussed on the feedback and advice given to us by students, encouraging them to openly voice and elaborate on their opinions and experiences. By disseminating a final report featuring recommendations inspired by such feedback, as well as promoting the video of our student interview findings, we wanted to encourage students to become active participants in UCL’s global community and to take personal responsibility to ensure that all students at UCL feel welcome.