Diversity of Student Experience Research Project

What Matters to Students: Embedding Student Voices in Evaluations to Improve Student Outcomes

Find out about the next phase of this investigation which is examining how HE providers embed students’ voices in their evaluation processes.


What is the Diversity of Student Experience Research Project?



Original artwork created for this project by Ruthie Liu, 1st year undergraduate student at Ruskin School of Art, Feb 2023


The Diversity of Student Experience Research Project is an in-house inquiry into how students from diverse backgrounds participate in learning at Oxford.

The project is being led by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Student Union, and Student Welfare and Support Services, including the Disability Advisory Service.

The findings of the project will contribute to the University's revised Access and Participation Plan and associated actions.


Access and participation plans set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups to access, succeed in and progress from higher education. 

Access and participation plans - Office for Students


How is the project funded and when will it present its findings?

The University's Diversity Fund has provided funding to support the piloting of a range of participatory methods to understand how the everyday lives of students at Oxford influence their educational experiences.

The project team will start to present their findings of the pilot phase in Michaelmas term 2023.

What is driving the project?

Higher education has moved away from a focus on the personal shortcomings or ‘deficits’ of individuals, or groups of individuals, that prevent them from attaining higher grades.

As a result, the lower statistic point average in degree outcomes for students, especially for black and disabled students, is now referred to as an ‘awarding’ gap, rather than ‘attainment’ gap. This shifts the gaze to systemic and structural barriers to learning on-course and perpetuated by institutional culture, curriculum and pedagogy, within which interpersonal barriers may also be reproduced. 

The Diversity of Student Experience Research Project is aimed at capturing the lived realities, and the opinions and attitudes, of a range of undergraduates and masters' students at the University. Findings will inform the University’s Access and Participation Plan and the implementation of its activities.

If you are interested in finding out more, the blog post Enhancing research and evaluation for addressing degree awarding gaps, published by the Evaluation Collective on 18 May 2023, shares insights and recommendations from a symposium organised by the principal investigator for the project, Dr Elizabeth Rahman, Centre for Teaching and Learning.

How does the project work?

The project considers how the learning environment is experienced by students with a range of personal characteristics or circumstances (eg disability, health, gender identity, ethnicity or home background) and explores affirmation and denigration within contexts of learning.

Investigative analysis considers the prevalence of challenges experienced by students, including but not limited to those from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, and how these relate to degree outcomes.

Using developmental evaluation to facilitate change around indeterminate and socially complex issues, the project adopts the adage ‘nothing about us, without us’ to help ensure work is conducted in service of the needs and interests of those who Access and Participation Plans are asked to target.

What are the outputs so far from the project? 

How can I be involved in the project?

For staff

For students

How can I stay informed about future opportunities to be involved in this project?

Future opportunities to be involved in this project will be announced via our mailing list (for staff involvement) and in Student News (for student involvement).

Who do I contact for further information?

For further information about this project, or to provide comments or suggestions, please contact Dr Elizabeth Rahman (Senior Evaluation Officer, Centre for Teaching and Learning) at contact@ctl.ox.ac.uk.

Links of interest

IncludED. Helping all students make the most of Oxford's education

Contact us

If you have a query, please contact us at



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