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Belonging: Blurring the Boundaries

Meharg, Debbie; Craighill, Stephanie



This paper explores Whitchurch’s (2008) notion of the ‘third space’ in the context of articulating students from Further Education to Higher Education. This research appropriates the term ‘third space’ and applies it to the emergent territory occupied by college students ‘crossing the boundary’ to university. The concept of the ‘third space’ allows us to explore the notion of belonging in relation to direct entrants seeking to establish their role in the unfamiliar zone between college and university. Research examines the implications for college students of this ‘blurring of boundaries’ and how they establish a sense of belonging and creditability in the university context. Empirical research makes use of focus groups involving articulating students from Further Education directly into the third year of an adjacent degree course to determine if and why a ‘sense of belonging’ is important, what affect it has on performance, and to establish barriers to, and strategies for, successful boundary crossing from college to university. As Whitchurch highlighted secondment, mentoring and study leave as influential in the success of the unbounded professional, this paper proposes that interventions can be carried out to increase the sense of belonging and likely success of articulating students, notably, drop-in lectures, tutorial support (from HE academic staff), guest lectures and open days. This research is particularly relevant as the Scottish Government aims to remove barriers to widening access and participation in Higher Education. Research findings can inform best practice approach at universities, enhance the experience of articulating student, guide policy makers and aid knowledge transfer.


Meharg, D., & Craighill, S. (2014). Belonging: Blurring the Boundaries. In The European Conference on Education 2014: Official Conference Proceedings (79-90)

Conference Name The European Conference on Education (ECE2014)
Conference Location Brighton
Start Date Jul 9, 2014
End Date Jul 13, 2014
Publication Date 2014
Deposit Date Feb 25, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 25, 2015
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 79-90
Series ISSN 2188-1162
Book Title The European Conference on Education 2014: Official Conference Proceedings
Keywords articulation; boundary crossing; college; third space; transition; university;
Public URL
Publisher URL