Student identities in new spaces of higher education

  • Mandy Louise Curtis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


As new ways of delivering higher education are promoted this study has built upon existing work on ‘becoming a student’ and extends investigations into changing economic and socio-spatial conditions that give rise to new student experiences. Specifically, it explores the co-production of student spaces and student identities in the context of new higher education provision. The research contributes to debates on student and youth identities by revealing the contested production of student spaces and the socio-spatial inclusions and exclusions that accompany these processes. The research is drawn from a case study of higher education in Hastings, south-east England where the foundation of post-18 education at the University of Brighton Hastings Campus is part of a suite of interventions to stimulate coastal urban regeneration, contributing to policy to address deprivation in struggling seaside resorts. The thesis examines the everyday geographies of an early group of students in this context in order to shed light on the ways in which student identities and student spaces are co-constructed within Hastings, often in uneven and unexpected ways. The methods included a quantitative survey of student experiences and behaviours together with a follow up qualitative photo elicitation interview that examined student’s articulation of their identities through visual representation. These methods involved a particular cohort of students and explored how a range of student experiences and spaces were influenced by student life-course, previous residential location, relationships with other students, the university and the town. Place, space and identity were key concepts used to examine the similarities and differences of experience between the local and migrant groups. Further empirical data was obtained from in-depth interviews with key actors with a responsibility for shaping the student experience through space and place in order to examine how their actions and perceptions shaped student spaces and experiences. The findings of this research demonstrate the importance of place making to higher education students who have attempted to reproduce the Brighton student experience in Hastings. The results are timely as education and learning is reconfigured nationally, and students shape their identities in new spaces, through new relationships and experiences within a new setting. The conceptual framework combined findings related to place, identity and the accumulation of capital that advance an understanding on place making as pertinent to a new student body.
Date of AwardSept 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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