Narrowing the participation gap using an inclusive advice and guidance system

Caroline Wilson, Craig Bartle, Richard Stephenson, Tom Beale

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The Student Engagement Centre (SEC) at Coventry University launched in 2017. A team of more than 20 staff offer advice and guidance to students to ensure that they stay engaged and are able to access the tools and skills they need to achieve success. We review the first year of operation, focussing particularly on the extent to which the new service offers equitable opportunity of access for students. Studies show that a student’s background can have the effect of disadvantaging them at university. Students from ethnic minority groups, for instance, feel less supported and encouraged by their university experience than their peers and are less likely to engage with available advice and guidance. The engagement calls at Coventry University have the capacity to share more equally access to advice and guidance as they do not rely on the student to initiate contact. Instead, students are contacted based on an engagement score generated using a calculation of a student’s digital footprint, including the use of university computers, Wi-Fi, the university’s online learning environment and library. Those in the lowest 20% band of engagement for each course are scheduled to receive a call.
Our key research question was whether engagement alerts fell equitably across the student cohort. We compared the call logs of the SEC against data held by the University about enrolled students according to whether they were accepted for their place via clearing, according to gender, to age, to ethnicity and tariff score. Statistical analysis revealed no differences in the likelihood of a student featuring on the call alert according to these factors.
This indicates the service offers equity of access to advice and guidance service and that the SEC supports the university’s objective to introduce adjustments to the student experience that eliminate the disadvantage previously identified in certain background characteristics. As students are offered the same opportunity for success, the long term impact should be a reduction of attainment gaps and other differential outcomes.

The analysis undertaken has involved a collaboration between Caroline Wilson and Craig Bartle from Coventry University’s Research Centre for Global Learning: Education and Attainment (GLEA), and Richard Stephenson and Tom Beale from the University’s Student Services team, which operates the Student Engagement Centre. It was conducted as part of the University’s participation in DRIVER, a project part-funded by the Office for Students’ Addressing Barriers to Student Success programme

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019
EventMeasuring Excellence in Higher Education: Approaches and their Impact - University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Sept 201913 Sept 2019


ConferenceMeasuring Excellence in Higher Education: Approaches and their Impact
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • equity of opportunity; disparity of attainment; advice and guidance; Student Services


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