In a Europe-wide survey that reached almost 4000 students across Europe, the level of beginner students’ social and academic integration and, ultimately, their sense of belonging, was assessed.

The questionnaire focused on adapting to higher education, by addressing the relationship to staff and fellow students as well as possible habitus issues. It also gauged the level and role of institutional support designed to alleviate difficulties during the transition phase. Emphasis was put on students’ sense of belonging or feeling part of a community, notions of anonymity and “fitting in”. Further, academic difficulties and workload issues as well as the impact of the choice of study-programme were addressed.

While also serving as a needs assessment that informed the project’s other outputs, the survey aimed at finding out more about the most pressing challenges beginner students are confronted with in adapting to university life. Most importantly, the role and impact of “belonging” on the first-semester experience was explored: what contributes to and facilitates the development of a sense of belonging after entering higher education? The data underline the importance of the social element and its impact on how beginner students fared during their first semester.

The results of the survey were compiled in an extensive report which is available for download here.

Upon request, the questionnaire can be handed out to any interested party. It can be used (and adapted) at higher education institutions all over Europe to assess student needs at their own institution in order to improve students’ social integration and their sense of belonging.