• Developing a methodology for public engagement with critical research.

      Boyask, Ruth; Vigurs, Katy; Auckland University of Technology; University of Derby; Auckland University of Technology; University of Derby (Sage, 2017-12-10)
      n this article we argue that a refined understanding of ‘public’ and ‘public engagement’ can help researchers who produce critical research make better decisions towards achieving policy influence. We acknowledge the challenges critical researchers face in putting their research to work within the public domain. Critical research struggles to gain influence in bounded public spheres where research is valued as a consumable commodity rather than for its integrity or capacity for informing change. A starting point for developing a method of engagement is to understand better ‘publics’ and the different ways they may be conceptualised. We draw on a framework of three conceptualisations of the public in public engagement: bounded, normative and emergent. We use this framework to analyse our own experience of public engagement and attempts at policy influence in the Respecting Children and Young People Project. Through this analysis we recognise alternative ways to conceive of publics that may direct us away from some courses of action, and open new possibilities for public engagement with critical research.
    • Evaluation of outreach interventions for under 16 year olds: Tools and guidance for higher education providers.

      Harrison, Neil; Vigurs, Katy; Crockford, Julian; McCaig Colin; Squire, Ruth; Clark, Lewis; International Centre for Guidance Studies (Office for Students (OfS), 2018-12-13)
      During 2017-18, OFFA commissioned research that aimed to understand the nature of outreach activities for under 16 year olds (which were funded through access and participation investment) and how these were evaluated. This document, developed from the research, is intended to act as a resource for pre-16 outreach practitioners and evaluators, drawing both on the data collected by this project and the wider literature around evaluation and outreach. It seeks to recognise the complexity of pre-16 outreach work and eschews a prescriptive approach in favour of establishing important principles and actions that are likely to underpin good practice. Our discussion is broadly positioned within a ‘social realist’ worldview (Archer, 2008; Pawson, 2013) that seeks to understand the fuzzy nature of the cause-and-effect relationships that exist within complex social fields, where individuals construct their own realities in reference to those around them. There is a particular focus on epistemology – the pathways to creating dependable, if contingent, knowledge – as a vehicle for making meaning from data that is usually incomplete, compromised or mediated through young people’s emergent constructions of their worlds. Fundamentally, outreach is predicated on the ability of practitioners to influence young people in a planned way, albeit that the plan will not always work for every young person in every cohort. An important element in this epistemology is that it is not concerned with finding single ‘solutions’ that exist outside time and context. Rather, it is concerned with understanding how young people are influenced by their life experiences – not ‘what works’, but what works in a given context and, importantly, why. It is only through understanding the latter element that practices can become robustly effective in the long-term and potentially transferable to other contexts. This is particularly appropriate to pre-16 outreach work due to the lengthy time lag between activity and application to higher education (HE).
    • The evidence base for careers websites. What works?

      Vigurs, Katy; Everitt, Julia; Staunton, Tom; University of Derby (Careers and Enterprise Company, 2017-11-24)
      There is some evidence which suggests that using career websites as part of broader careers education provision can impact positively on young people’s career readiness and the quality and diversity of their social networks for careers purposes. The evidence points to a number of findings which can be turned into lessons for practice. - Information-based career websites need to exist in the context of a wider offline careers support program. They are not a replacement for professional career guidance. - Career websites that provide automated interactions need to be embedded within a wider range of careers support services. Only by doing so can they increase users’ awareness of career support or give users new ideas about careers by exposing them to multimedia resources. - Where career websites are used to facilitate communication (e.g. through online guidance and counselling or through delivery based inside virtual worlds), this can lead to positive outcomes such as gains in career decidedness and self-knowledge, gains in satisfaction with future career prospects, and in career exploration behaviours (such as more frequent career searches). - Career websites need to be integrated into careers education provision and into wider forms of career support (e.g. tutorial support and personal guidance).
    • Exorcising an ethnography in limbo.

      Vigurs, Katy; University of Derby (Emerald Group Publishing Limited., 2019-01-07)
      I feel haunted; troubled by the ethnography that I conducted some years ago of a new partnership group that was attempting to set up a community learning centre. I’m aware that it doesn’t sound like a particularly alarming research topic, and perhaps that is where some of the issues began. I did not expect an ethnographic haunting to occur. The partnership recruited me less than a year into the creation of the project and I spent two years as a sort of ‘researcher in residence’. The original idea was that I would observe the initial development of the project and then, when the community learning centre was established, I would research the centre’s activities and how they were experienced by village residents. However, fairly soon into the project, problematic dynamics developed within the group, leading to irreconcilable conflict between members. The community learning centre was never established and I was left to piece together an ethnography of a failed partnership. Researching an increasingly dysfunctional partnership was an emotionally exhausting activity, especially when relationships between members became progressively hostile. Managing data collection and analysis at this time was difficult, but I was shocked that, a number of months (and now years) later, revisiting the data for publication purposes remained uncomfortable. I managed to produce my PhD thesis on the back of this study, but I have not felt able to go back to the data, despite there being findings worthy of publication. This ethnography is in a state of limbo and is at risk of becoming lost forever. In this chapter, I explore the reasons for this and discuss lessons learned for future projects.
    • Gatsby careers benchmark north east implementation pilot: interim evaluation (2015-2017)

      Hanson, Jill; Vigurs, Katy; Moore, Nicki; Everitt, Julia; Clark, Lewis; International Centre for Guidance Studies (University of Derby, 2019-02-15)
      This report presents interim evaluation findings on the implementation of the Gatsby Benchmarks (herewith referred to as the Benchmarks) for good career guidance with a sample of 16 pilot schools and colleges (herewith referred to as education providers) in the North East of England. These interim findings report progress made against the Benchmarks during the course of the pilot (autumn 2015 to autumn 2017), the enablers and barriers faced, and the impact of the Benchmarks on learners’ career readiness and attainment. The interim findings suggest the following: Timescale - Schools and colleges involved were able to make significant strides towards fully meeting most, if not all, Benchmarks within two years. To date Benchmark 2 (Learning from career and labour market information) and Benchmark 7 (Encounters with FE and HE) have seen the largest increase in the number of pilot education providers fully achieving them. Benchmark 3 (Addressing the needs of every pupil) and Benchmark 4 (Linking curriculum to careers) have the least number of pilot education providers fully achieving them. Positive impact on learners. Learners show an increase in some aspects of career readiness and tentative increases in some aspects of GCSE attainment. Effective implementation of the Benchmarks. This was enabled by the existence of a regional facilitator to support pilot education providers and strong provider leadership and robust organisational infrastructures. Key barriers were a lack of time and space (in the curriculum), a lack of funding and a lack of commitment at senior leadership level, which impacted on achieving a cultural shift in some education providers. Regional impact. The implementation of the Benchmarks is impacting more widely in the region with non-pilot education providers forming links with pilot providers to seek support on developing good career guidance in their settings. Furthermore, wider stakeholders such as local employers and providers of careers education were also using the Benchmarks to review and develop their services to schools/colleges. Emerging challenges: A noticeable challenge was how the term ‘meaningful’, in relation to encounters with employers and employees, was interpreted and how education providers monitor provision of such encounters.
    • Graduate gap years: Narratives of postponement in graduate employment transitions in England.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane; Everitt, Julia; University of Derby (Routledge, 2018-07-26)
      For UK higher education students, the ‘gap year’ or ‘year out’ is historically conceptualised as an amassing of wider life experience, often overseas, during a twelve-month period between the completion of A-level studies and the first year of a university degree. However, in a recent comparative study, which saw interviews conducted in both 2014 and 2015 with final year undergraduate students (n74) from different social backgrounds, across two English universities (one Russell Group university and one Post-1992 university), the term ‘gap year’ was being re-appropriated to capture something different. The term was being used to describe a period following graduation in which graduands planned to take low-paid work or ‘ordinary’ jobs, take stock of their financial situation, and attempt to save money and/or repay urgent debt. A high proportion of students in the 2015 stage of the study (16/37) spoke of taking a graduate gap year, compared with 9/37 in 2014. It may be that the increasing costs of debt-based forms of higher education payment coinciding with growing precarious employment has contributed to this situation. By borrowing the term gap year to describe a new and different phenomenon, some of the student interviewees may be legitimising the predicament in which they find themselves. This chapter explores the experiences of students who spoke of taking a graduate gap year. It examines the different roles of a graduate gap year and discusses wider implications for unequal graduate outcomes.
    • Greater expectations of graduate futures? A comparative analysis of the views of the last generation of lower-fees undergraduates and the first generation of higher-fees undergraduates at two English universities.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane (Society for Research into Higher Education, 2016-02-01)
      Student finance in UK higher education (HE) has been radically reformed over the past twenty years and the changes in student finance policies have been the focus for a growing body of education research (see for example, Bowl and Hughes, 2014; Bachan, 2014; Wakeling and Jefferies, 2013; Wilkins et al., 2012; Dearden et al., 2011; Moore et al., 2011; McCaig, 2010; Callender and Jackson, 2008). The majority of these existing studies, however, focus on the impact of differing tuition fee levels on students’ enrolment behaviour and the beginning of students’ HE careers. There is little research that has investigated how the most recent increase in tuition fees and changes to student loans, under the 2012 student finance system, have affected the views of graduands (university students who are about to graduate) and their approaches toward their graduate futures. This scoping study has been developed to start to address this gap in knowledge and understanding. In 2014, prior to the SRHE research award, the research team produced a unique qualitative baseline of the views of a sample of undergraduate students who were graduating in the summer of 2014. These graduands were part of the last cohort of students to have paid lower tuition fees and would therefore be graduating with less student debt. This follow-up study, funded by the SRHE, sought to generate new data in order to be able to compare the views, ambitions and experience of a sample of 2014 graduands with a sample of 2015 graduands.
    • Higher fees, higher debts: Greater expectations of graduate futures? A research-informed comic.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane (Society for Research into Higher Education, 2016-07-01)
      This is a research-informed comic, which is a graphic representation of a research report produced for the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) on the perspectives and experiences of university graduates who were part of the first generation to pay higher university tuition fees.
    • Higher fees, higher debts: Unequal graduate transitions in England?

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Everitt, Julia; Harris, Diane; University of Derby; University of Manchester (Emerald, 2018-05-09)
      This chapter draws on findings from a comparative, qualitative research project that investigated the decision-making of different groups of English higher education students in central England as they graduated from a Russell group university (46 interviewees) and a Post-92 university (28 interviewees). Half of the students graduated in 2014 (lower tuition fees regime) and the other half graduated in 2015 (higher tuition fees regime). The students interviewed were sampled by socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore students’ future plans and perceptions of their future job prospects. Despite higher debt levels, the 2015 sample of Russell Group graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds had a positive view of their labour market prospects and a high proportion had achieved either a graduate job or a place on a postgraduate course prior to graduation. This group had saved money whilst studying. The 2015 sample of Post-1992 University graduates (from both lower and average socio-economic backgrounds) were worried about their level of debt, future finances and labour market prospects. This chapter raises questions about whether a fairer university finance system, involving lower levels of debt for graduates from less advantaged backgrounds, might avoid some graduates’ transitions to adulthood being so strongly influenced by financial anxieties.
    • Mindful networks? Navigating and negotiating life and work in academia.

      Vigurs, Katy; University of Derby (Springer, 2018-08-25)
      In this chapter I unpack my use of social networks (and social media) as a means of being more mindful about the role of research and scholarship in the construction of my academic identity. I have found it to be a restless, shifting identity that has to be carefully and continually navigated and negotiated. On the one hand, I explain how participation in social networks has actively shaped my sense of academic community and also the scholarly relationships that contribute strongly to my academic health and wellbeing. On the other hand, I question the extent to which social networking and the use of social media in academia allow truly mindful practices to be enacted. For example, I sometimes worry that social networking for academic purposes through social media contributes to the acceleration of higher education practice – never switching off, always being connected – potentially further exacerbating academics’ levels of labour, stress and pressure. By reflecting upon and analysing my scholarly use of Twitter and Instagram I explore how this practice (usually) keeps me acting mindfully as an academic and evaluate the extent to which it enables me to engage better in the complex cognitive and emotional demands of working in higher education. Finally, I reflect upon my recent change of both role and institution, which saw me unexpectedly and temporarily suspend my regular use of social media for academic purposes.
    • Participants' productive disruption of a community photo-elicitation project: improvised methodologies in practice

      Vigurs, Katy; Kara, Helen (Taylor and Francis, 2016-08-23)
      This article reports on an attempt to use photo-elicitation to explore contested intergenerational perceptions and experiences of ‘place’ in one English village. Participants actively disrupted the photo-elicitation project and ended up co-creating an enriched research design that allowed them to represent how they experienced ‘place’. The spontaneous, mixed media-elicitation that resulted overturns some of the more straightforward notions that are aligned with photo-elicitation techniques. This article builds on a growing body of critical literature on photo-elicitation and shows how participants’ disruption of a project’s research methods can be both challenging and fruitful in practice. The researcher's flexibility and willingness to work with participants’ alternative approaches proved extremely effective in allowing participants to communicate their ‘imagined geographies’ (Massey & Jess, 1995) and to identify experiences of social inequality. This article explores how the initially problematic in participant involvement can be turned into the productive through the use of 'improvised methodologies'.
    • Progression for success: Evaluating North Yorkshire’s innovative careers guidance project

      Moore, Nicki; Vigurs, Katy; Everitt, Julia; Clark, Lewis; University of Derby (North Yorkshire County Council, 2017-11-14)
      This report sets out the findings from an evaluation of North Yorkshires innovative careers guidance project.
    • Twittering away - Is Twitter an appropriate adjunctive tool to enhance learning and engagement in higher education?

      Vigurs, Katy; Boath, Elizabeth; Frangos, Juliet; Staffordshire University (Staffordshire University, 2018-04-27)
      Twitter is a social media platform that has been used in teaching and learning. The aim was to explore students’ views of using Twitter as an adjunctive learning tool to provide access to contemporary information, to enhance learning and to generate wider discussion via Twitter backchannel communication. A 17-item Qualtrics questionnaire consisting of open and closed questions was devised specifically for the study. Qualitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data via thematic analysis. Participants were a convenience sample of 44 Level 4 Social Welfare Law students who were invited to engage online with the academic and professional community via Twitter. Eleven (25%) students responded to the questionnaire. Four key themes emerged from the qualitative data: Enhancing knowledge; Building academic and professional networks; Time for twitter and the Need for Twitter training. Despite the limitations, the results suggest that if supported by institutional digital scaffolding and training, twitter may be a useful adjunct to traditional physical learning spaces. Further research is r however required to explore the future pedagogic potential of Twitter.
    • Understanding the evaluation of access and participation outreach interventions for under 16 year olds.

      Harrison, Neil; Vigurs, Katy; Crockford, Julian; McCaig Colin; Squire, Ruth; Clark, Lewis; University of the West of England; University of Derby; University of Sheffield; Sheffield Hallam University (Office for Students, 2018-12-13)
      The project team was asked to address the following six research questions and these were used to guide the project: 1. What are the intended outcomes for current outreach interventions directed at under 16 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds where the long-term aim is to widen access to higher education (HE)? 2. What types of outreach intervention activity or activities are institutions using in relation to intended outcomes? 3. What evaluation tools, methods and metrics are being used to measure the intended outcomes? 4. What are the perceived and actual challenges and barriers for different stakeholders to effective evaluation of long-term outreach? 5. What do different stakeholders consider most effective evaluation practice and why? 6. How valid and suitable are the evaluation tools, methods and metrics (identified through the research) that are commonly used? The project was constructed around six interlinked work packages: 1. A quantitative analysis of what higher education providers (HEPs) say about their pre-16 outreach activities (and their evaluation) in their 2017-18 access agreements (as the most recent available). 2. An online survey of HEPs to gather information about the pre-16 outreach activities delivered during the 2016-17 academic year and their evaluation, as well as the structure of their evaluation resources and challenges faced. 3. Case studies of four HEPs identified as demonstrating elements of good practice through their access agreements and the online survey, derived from telephone interviews with key staff and documentary analysis. 4. Telephone interviews with 11 third sector organisations (TSOs) to explore their practices and the evaluation of their activities, providing a counterpoint to the data collected from higher education institutions (HEIs). 5. A synthesis of the four preceding work packages to explore elements of good practice, determine a basis for assessing the quality of evaluations and highlight challenges for the sector and OFFA. 6. An invited participatory workshop for evaluators from HEPs and TSOs identified as demonstrating elements of good practice through the online survey and telephone interviews, to act as a sounding board for the emerging conclusions and recommendations.
    • Using Twitter to tackle peripherality? Facilitating networked scholarship for part-time doctoral students within and beyond the university

      Vigurs, Katy (Faculty of Arts, Charles Sturt University, 2016-06-23)
      Feeling part of a community has previously been found to be a motivating factor for part-time doctoral students as well as speeding up doctoral progress. Separately, it has also been suggested that social media usage (specifically Twitter) can encourage the development of interactive academic networks to establish social relations with relevant people beyond the doctoral supervisory team. Drawing on Lave and Wenger’s theory of legitimate peripheral participation, and building particularly on the work of Teeuwsen et al. (2014), this paper suggests that the use of social media in doctoral education can be one way for part-time doctoral students to migrate from a position of academic peripherality to one of legitimate peripheral participation in a wider research community. This paper investigates the use of social media for academic purposes by three different groups of part-time doctoral students. It explores the ways in which Twitter might be used to help part-time doctoral students feel part of the research community both within a University and the wider research community beyond. It also identifies some of the barriers and limitations to achieving this. Finally, the paper raises questions about the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and other faculty members in relation to using social media to support the learning of part-time doctoral students.