Vicki Trowler (PhD Graduate 2016)

Thesis title: Nomads in Contested Landscapes: Reframing Student Engagement and "Non-Traditionality" in Higher Education


Researcher, manager, planner, problem solver and activist, thriving on challenge and change in an ongoing quest to understand and transform the world. 

Research summary

  • student engagement
  • social justice and transformation
  • leadership and governance in Higher Education
  • Higher Education policy
  • online communities
  • social media and Web 2.x
  • political engagement and communication using OSM
  • the Information Society
  • Knowledge Management
  • using technology to effect change

Research activity

This PhD research is funded by the ESRC and builds on the groundwork of funded research I have conducted for the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education[1]. It brings together research interest and experience in Student Engagement with an abiding interest in widening participation issues, and on-going concerns about student persistence / retention.  We know that student engagement (SE) is positively correlated with persistence/retention[2]. There are also positive correlations with widening participation - both ways: “non-traditional” students (those historically underrepresented in that particular HE context) benefit disproportionately from SE[3]; and students in more diverse universities are more engaged than students in more homogeneous universities[4] (unless the university is completely homogeneous, which also increases engagement (Pike & Kuh 2005)). It thus follows that student engagement has a positive role to play in encouraging persistence among “non-traditional” students. However, these students – whilst having the potential to benefit most from student engagement – are often reported as feeling alienated or unengaged[5], and constitute “at risk” groups in terms of persistence/retention.



[1] See Trowler 2010; Trowler V & Trowler P 2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2010d; Trowler P & Trowler V 2010

[2] Astin 1975, 1993; Bean 2005; Berger & Milem 1999; Braxton, Milem & Sullivan 2000; Bridges, Cambridge, Kuh & Leegwater 2005; Milem & Berger 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini 2005; Peltier, Laden & Matranga 1999: Pike et al. 1997; Stage & Hossler 2000; Swail, Redd & Perna 2003; Tinto 1993, 2000, 2005

[3] Carini, Kuh & Klein 2006; Cruce, Wolniak Seifert & Pascarella 2006; Kuh 2009 (b);  Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie & Gonyea 2008; NSSE 2007; Pascarella & Terenzini 2005

[4] Kuh et al 1991; Markwell 2007; Pike and Kuh 2005

[5] Krause 2005, 2006; Forsyth & Furlong 2003; Gallego & Hollingsworth 2000; MacKinnon & Manathunga 2003; Ten Yew & Farrell 2001

Project title: Nomads in Contested Landscapes: Reframing Student Engagement and "Non-Traditionality" in Higher Education

Supervisor: Dr Charles Anderson, Dr Ken McCulloch