Exploring Social Integration of Sport Students during the Transition to University


  • Rick Hayman Northumbria University
  • Linda Allin Northumbria University
  • Andrew Coyles




retention, social integration, sport, student engagement, transition


This paper outlines findings from a study exploring student experiences of their transition and social integration during the first semester of a sport programme at a post 1992 University in the North of England. The study was implemented due to an issue with retention across the sport degree programmes and the knowledge that whilst a student’s decision to withdraw from university is multifaceted, it is influenced by factors relating to a lack of social integration, including homesickness and difficulties in making new friends (Thomas, 2002). A failure or lack of opportunity to socially integrate can also negatively impact the opening months of a student’s university experience (Mackie, 1998; Wilcox, Winn, & Fyvie-Gauld, 2005). Students were engaged as partners and co-creators with academic staff throughout the study: second year peer mentors undertook qualitative interviews with first year students, which focused on the students’ experiences of the transition to university, the importance of social integration, including barriers and facilitators and the role sport may play towards this process. Nine first year students were interviewed. Findings and best practice which may assist academic and support staff in maximising the overall university student experience are presented. Implications to aid effective university policy and practice to improve student retention, attainment and progression are discussed as well as identifying how sport can play a role as both a facilitator and barrier to developing sense of identity and belonging.

Author Biographies

Rick Hayman, Northumbria University

Dr Rick Hayman is a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. With over ten years’ experience within Higher Education, he is passionate about teaching using innovative approaches that inspires students and colleagues.

Linda Allin, Northumbria University

Dr Linda Allin is an Associate Professor at Northumbria University. With over 20 years of experience in Higher Education, she is responsible for teaching excellence and enhancement in the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has undertaken several pedagogic projects relating student and staff collaboration.

Andrew Coyles

Andy Coyles is a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University with several years of experience teaching in Higher Education. Furthermore, he has 12 years high performance coaching experience at two Premier League football academies.


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Original Research