Abstract The aim of this paper is to explore the role that informal networks, interactions and digital technologies play in supporting the participation in undergraduate education of eleven mature students coming from widening participation backgrounds in one research-intensive United Kingdom (UK) university. During eighteen months mature students were co-researchers of the longitudinal qualitative study ‘DD-LAB: Digital Diversity Learning and Belonging’. Along with problematizing the heterogeneity of students grouped under the category ‘mature’, we found that participants’ financial circumstances, family commitments, and home location, were as influential as age when understanding their participation in university. Digital technologies played a role in fostering belonging and participation in academic and social spaces. Yet, engagement in a digital world did not necessarily mitigate their positioning as a minority group within a research-intensive institution. Although digital technologies and informal networks helped mature students overcome institutional struggles and expanded modes of belonging, we conclude that the institutional and social positioning constrained mature students sense of academic and social integration, leading to continuing inequalities that universities need to address.
Bibliographical noteThe acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.
- SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
- SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations
- DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
- MATURE STUDENTS
- UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
- WIDENING PARTICIPATION