Covid-19 and its impact on students’ perception of their roles as Student Ambassadors and/or Course Representatives.


  • Hilda Mulrooney Kingston University
  • Hannah Denison School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University
  • Phoebe Wood School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University
  • Alison Kelly School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University
  • Karen Lipsedge


Relationships between universities and their students are complex, but opportunities for active involvement of students in a variety of roles are available. Two of these, Course Representatives (CR) and Student Ambassadors (SA), are explored in this study to better understand student perceptions of these roles, and explore whether and how they have changed in response to the pandemic within a large and diverse post-92 HE institution. Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered using online questionnaires and individual interviews. This data reveals that both groups identified their key responsibility as communications, the main benefit being enhanced social interaction. Both also described the difficulties of juggling multiple commitments and a strong sense of belonging to their institution. The Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected both roles, resulting in communication difficulties for the CR and reduced working opportunities as well as communication problems for SA. Given the move to blended learning approaches in most institutions and the potential for disengagement of students as a result, especially new students who have not yet formed attachments, the SA and CR roles will become more critical to help retain current students and attract new applicants. Understanding how best these roles may be utilised both at a time of a global pandemic and beyond is an important issue for HEIs.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Hannah Denison, School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University

Hannah Denison is a graduate student, currently working on her PhD in microbiology.

Phoebe Wood, School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University

Phoebe Wood is a graduate of the BSc Nutrition (Human Nutrition), currently pursuing a Masters in Dietetics.

Alison Kelly, School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy & Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing, Kingston University

Dr Alison Kelly is Associate Professor in Microbiology and a keen researcher, both subject-specific and in pedagogy.

Karen Lipsedge

Dr Karen Lipsedge is Associate Professor in English Literature & Senior Advisor for Teaching and Learning, focusing on EDI, race & racial equity.


Bell, J., Dicker, R., Garcia, M., Kelly, E, Streich, R, Mulrooney, H. & Kelly, A. F. (2019). Active learning across disciplines: opportunities to develop employability skills and leadership potential in undergraduate students. A student and staff perspective. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 14(1).

Bonwell, C. C. & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports.

Bunce, L., Baird, A., & Jones, S. E. (2017). The student-as-consumer approach in higher education and its effects on academic performance. Studies in Higher Education, 42(11), 1958-1978.

Burns, D., Dagnell, N. & Holt, M. (2020). Assessing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Wellbeing at Universities in the United Kingdom: A Conceptual Analysis. Frontiers in Education, 5, 582882.

Carey, P. (2013). Representation and student engagement in higher education: a reflection on the views and experiences of course representatives. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 37(1), 71-88.

Chickering, A. W. & Gambon, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3-7.

Collini, S. (2020, August 31). English universities are in peril because of 10 years of calamitous reform. The Guardian.

Crawford, J., Butler-Henderson, K., Rudolph, J., Malkawi, B., Glowatz, M., Burton, R., Magni, P. A., & Lam, S. (2020). COVID-19: 20 countries' higher education intra-period digital pedagogy responses. Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching, 3(1), 1-20.

Crossan, B., Field, J., Gallacher, J., & Merrill, B. (2003). Understanding participation in learning for non-traditional adult learners: Learning careers and the construction of learning identities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(1), 55-67.

European University Association (2019). Promoting active learning in universities. Thematic Peer Group Report. Learning and Teaching Paper #5.

Fielding, M. (2001). Students as radical agents of change. Journal of Educational Change, 2, 123–141.

Flint, A. & Goddard, G. (2020). Power, Partnership & Representation. In L. Mercer-Mapstone & S. Abbott (Eds). The Power of Partnership: Students, Staff and Faculty Revolutionizing higher Education (pp. 73-86). Elon Center for Engaged Learning.

Fowler-Watt, K., Majin, G., Sunderland, M., Phillips, M., Brine, D., Bissell, A., & Murphy, J. (2020). Reflections on the shifting shape of journalism education in the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital Culture and Education. Advance Online Publication.

Freeman, I., & Thomas, M. (2005). Consumerism in education: A comparison between Canada and the United Kingdom. International Journal of Educational Management, 19(2), 153–77.

Freeman, T., Anderman, L., & Jensen, J. (2007). Sense of belonging in College freshmen at the classroom and campus Levels. Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 203-220.

Goodenow, C. (1993). Classroom belonging among early adolescent students: relationships to motivation and achievement. Journal of Early Adolescence,13(1), 21–43.

Harris, M. (2011). Responding to student needs - co-responsibility between students and institutions. QAA.

Hausmann, L. R., Ye, F., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2009). Sense of belonging and persistence in white and African American first-year students. Research in Higher Education, 50, 649–669.

Jackson, N. (2011). Recognising a more complete education through a lifelong learning award. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, 1(3), 247-261.

Johnson, D. R. (2012). Campus racial climate perceptions and overall sense of belonging among racially diverse women in STEM majors. Journal of College Student Development, 53(2), 336–346.

Kahu, E. R. (2011). Framing student engagement in higher education. Studies in Higher Education 38(5), 758-773.

Katanis, T. (2000). The role of social transition in students’ adjustment to the first year of university. Journal of Institutional Research, 9(1), 100-110.

Kedraka, K., & Kaltsidis, C. (2020). Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on university pedagogy: Students’ experiences and considerations. European Journal of Education Studies, 7(8), 16-30.

Little, B., Locke, W., Scesa, A., & Williams, R. (2009). Report to HEFCE on student engagement. HEFCE.

Lizzio, A., & Wilson, K. (2009). Student participation in university governance: The role conceptions and sense of efficacy of student representatives on departmental committees. Studies in Higher Education, 34(1), 69–84.

Longhurst, G. J., Stone, D. M., Dulohery, K., Scully, D., Campbell, T. & Smith, C. F. (2020). Strength, weakness, opportunity, threat (SWOT) analysis of the adaptations to anatomical education in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Anatomical Sciences Education, 13(3), 301-311.

Lowden, K., Hall, S., Elliot, D., & Lewin, J. (2011). Employers perceptions of the employability skills of graduates. University of Glasgow SCRE & the Edge Foundation.

McNulty, J. A., Espiritu, B., Halsey, M., & Mendez, M. (2006). Personality preference influences medical student use of specific computer-aided instruction (CAI). BMC Medical Education, 6, 7.

Meehan, C., & Howells, K. (2019). In search of the feeling of ‘belonging’ in higher education: undergraduate students transition into higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(10), 1376-1390.

Mountford-Zimdars, A., Sabri, D., Moore, J., Sanders, J., Jones, S., & Higham L. (2015). Causes of difference in student outcomes. HEFCE.

Norton, S. (2016). Embedding employability in higher education for student success. HEA.

O’Donnell, V. L., & Tobbell., J. (2007). The transition of adult students to Higher Education: legitimate peripheral participation in a community of practice? Adult Education Quarterly, 57(4), 312-328.

OECD (2020). The impact of CVOVID-19 on student equity and inclusion: Supporting vulnerable students during school closures and school re-openings. Poly Brief. OECD.

Oldfield, J., Rodwell, J., Curry, L., & Marks, G. (2017). A face in a sea of faces: Exploring university students’ reasons for non-attendance to teaching sessions. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(4), 443-452.

O’Shea, S. E. (2015). Filling up silences – first in family students, capital and university talk in the home. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 34(2), 1-17.

O’Shea, S. (2016). First-in-family learners and higher education: negotiating the ‘silences’ of university transition and participation. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 3, 5-23.

Read, B., Burke, P. J., & Crozier, G. (2018). ‘It is like school sometimes’: Friendship and sociality on university campuses and patterns of social inequality. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 41(1), 70-82.

Reay, D. (2008). Class, Authenticity and the transition to higher education for mature students. Sociological Review, 50(3), 398-418.

Reay, D., Crozier, G., & Clayton, J. (2010). ‘Fitting in’ or ‘standing out’: Working –class students in UK higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 36(1), 107-124.

Rivera Munoz, C. A., Baik, C., & Lodge, J. M. (2019). Teacher and student interactions in the first year of university. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44(8), 1130-1142.

Rochford, F. (2014). Bringing them into the tent – student association and the neutered academy. Studies in Higher Education, 39(3), 485-499.

Seale, J. (2009). Doing student voice work in higher education: An exploration of the value of participatory methods. British Educational Research Journal, 36(6), 995-1015.

Simpson, O. (2003). Student retention in online, open and distance learning. Routledge.

Southall, J., Wason, H., & Avery, A. (2016). Non-traditional, commuter students and their transition to Higher Education – a synthesis of recent literature to enhance understanding of their needs. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 5(1), 1-15.

Strayhorn, T. (2012). College students' sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students. Routledge.

Stuart, M., Lido, C., & Morgan, J. (2009). The Impact of Social Identity and Cultural Capital on Different Ethnic Student Groups at University (ESRC End of Award Report, RES-000-22-2485). ESRC.

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change (Final report from the What Works? Student Retention and Success programme). HEA.

Thompson, L. J., Clark, G., Walker, M. & Whyatt, J.D. (2013). ‘It’s just like an extra string to your bow’: Exploring higher education students’ perceptions and experiences of extracurricular activity and employability. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), 135-147.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition (2nd Edition). University of Chicago Press.

Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement literature review. Higher Education Academy.

United Nations (2020). Education during COVID-19 and beyond (Policy Briefing).

Universities UK (2016). Universities UK.

Wainwright, E., & Marandet, E. (2010). Parents in higher education: Impacts of university learning on the self and the family. Educational Review, 62(4), 449-465.

Waite, S. (2013). ‘Knowing your place in the world’: How place and culture support and obstruct educational aims. Cambridge Journal of Education, 4(4), 413-433.

Wang, J. & Yan, Y. (2012). The Interview Question. In J. F. Gubrium, J. A. Holstein, A. B. Marvasti, & K. D. McKinney (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research (2nd ed., pp. 231-242). London, U.K.: SAGE.

Yuval-Davis, N. (2006). Belonging and the politics of belonging. Patterns of Prejudice, 40(3), 197-214.




How to Cite

Mulrooney, H., Denison, H., Wood, P., Kelly, A., & Lipsedge, K. . (2022). Covid-19 and its impact on students’ perception of their roles as Student Ambassadors and/or Course Representatives. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 4(2), 182–205. Retrieved from