Four domains of students’ sense of belonging to university

Ahn, Mi Young and Davis, Howard H.. 2020. Four domains of students’ sense of belonging to university. Studies in Higher Education, 45(3), pp. 622-634. ISSN 0307-5079 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Students’ sense of belonging is known to be strongly associated with academic achievement and a successful life at university. To achieve a comprehensive understanding of belonging, this study collected data via the 10 Words Question. Responses from 426 participants were analysed using a sequence of analytic methods including In Vivo coding, systematic coding, clustering, and contingency analysis. The results show that, in addition to academic and social engagement, there are two additional domains of belonging which are often neglected: surroundings and personal space. Surroundings equate to participants’ living space, and geographical and cultural location, while personal spaces refer to life satisfaction, life attitudes, identity and personal interests. Both positive and negative data demonstrate the complex and multi-dimensional character of belonging in higher education. The study concludes that policies for student engagement in higher education should reflect all four domains to support the full range of students’ experiences.

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"This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Studies in Higher Education on 19 January 2019, available at: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited."

Student’s Sense of Belonging to Bangor University in 2014 was financially supported by Bangor University’s Widening Access Fund (2013–2014)


Sense of belonging; higher education; engagement; 10 Words Question; education policy

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19 January 2019Published Online

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05 Jun 2024 09:27

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05 Jun 2024 09:29

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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