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Re-conceptualising student resilience through the liminal space of university, from a non-traditional Applied Health and Social Care graduate perspective

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Hayley Mckenzie
Publication date16/08/2022
Number of pages213
Awarding Institution
  • Derrick, Gemma, Supervisor, External person
Award date16/08/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores the unique recollections of non-traditional Applied Health and Social Care (n-tAHSC) graduates’ experiences as n-tAHSC students in the liminal space of university. The literature reveals that non-traditional (n-t) students face multiple challenges in UK Higher Education (HE), such as limited knowledge of HE, balancing paid work and study and other responsibilities. These stressors are increased when n-t students study AHSC programmes owing to the interdisciplinary hazards, which include ambiguity around career trajectory, lack of discipline-specific codes of conduct and lack of preparation for stressful people facing roles. Yet these students still achieve successful outcomes. A potential facilitating cause of this success is resilience, identified as both a buffer against the stressors that instigate poor mental health and a catalyst for positive mental health and success in HE. To this end, this thesis conceptualises the articulations and practices (conditions, causes and contingencies) of resilience from the unique perspectives of successful non-traditional Applied Health and Social Care (Sn-tAHSC) graduates, a population that has been under-researched across n-t student resilience literature until now.
Using a constructivist approach a sample of 20 successful Sn-tAHSC graduates were interviewed via online video call using Microsoft Teams. Using both a Grounded Theory approach and a Bourdieusian lens to interpret and analyse new understandings from the opinions and views of successful Sn-tAHSC graduates, across domains of agency, habitus, field and capital. The outcomes of the study show that n-tAHSC students articulate resilience differently than their ‘traditional’ student counterparts. Building on a concept of bouncing forward the n-tAHSC student commences university with a repertoire of conditions and strategies for resilience, learned from overcoming previous unique challenges and adversities in their former habitus. These students believe resilience to be further bolstered in the liminal space of university (field) through growth mindsets, problem-focussed coping and social models of resilience where they develop self-efficacy, through sharing and exchanging capital for resilience through formal and informal social interactions with peers, staff and services.
This thesis makes an original contribution to the evidence by reconceptualising resilience and creating a unique toolkit for n-tAHSC student resilience. Revealing distinct facilitating conditions, causes and contingencies for resilience where unique ‘bouncing forward’ resilience strategies enable n-tAHSC students to not only survive the challenges of HE, but flourish into successful AHSC graduates.