The salience of social relationships and networks in enabling student engagement and success
The successful transition to and through higher education calls for academic and social integration, and for this to occur students need to establish close and supportive networks with peers and teaching staff. This paper examines levels of support, from social networks and academic staff, using six in-depth student case studies from a longitudinal study which covered the whole length of their degree. It was found that social networks and relationships with staff are not static but constantly changing, depending on several factors, but they do have an impact on student engagement. Stronger social networks and relationships with teaching staff offer a buffer and resilience in periods when other factors threaten persistence, and are a positive factor in their own right to enhancing engagement. Those with weak relationships in both areas are at risk of withdrawal. It is imperative that universities find ways to strengthen relationships between the staff and the students, and the students and their peers, through methods of fostering these relationships.
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