A ‘satisfied settling’? Investigating a sense of belonging for Muslim students in a UK small-medium Higher Education Institution.

Maisha Islam, Tom Lowe, Gary Jones


In West European and North American Higher Education (HE), students of Islamic faith often feel overlooked, disregarded and marginalised by traditional post-secondary education colleges and Universities (Stevenson, 2014). This paper presents the findings of a research study conducted at a small-medium sized University in the UK to explore Muslim students' sense of belonging at the Institution, aiming to assess whether the University of Winchester followed a western trend of housing barriers to a full HE experience for minority student groups (Harper & Quaye, 2015). As the student population in the UK is growing to 50% of 18-24-year-old adults, so too is the number of students from diverse and underrepresented groups such as: students of faith, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students, disabled students and students with caring responsibilities (Lea, 2015). Therefore, understanding Winchester's Muslim student populations' sense of belonging and engagement at the Institution was to be deemed necessary. This study spanned over Winter 2017 / Spring 2018 using semi-structured interviews with 20% of the Muslim student population at the University, with findings suggesting that although the HEI has a very small Muslim population, students generally felt valued and a sense of belonging to the Institution. However, this was seen to be one-sided (fuelled mostly by positive academic experiences) and was implicated by being of minority status, to which the article labels as a ‘satisfied settling’. The article will also discuss how simple implementations by HEIs can further engage and enhance the university experience for these students.

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