Investigating the Role of Parents in University Education (School of Mental Health and Psychological Sciences, KCL)

Contact: Eleanor Dommett


Department: Psychology, School of Mental Health and Psychological Sciences (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience)

Institution: King’s College London

Project timeline: Ideally, the work would run from early January but it can start later if needed. The only requirement is that the work is completed before the end of June 2022.

Project duration: 13 weeks.  Likely to be 4-5 days a week but this may be flexible (depending on level of qualitative research experience).

Closing date: 17th December 2021

Expertise required: Qualitative research skills: – Conducting semi-structured interviews, ideally online. – Completing thematic analysis of transcripts. – Using NVivo for qualitative analysis. In addition to these specific skills students should ideally have have: – Good information literacy skills to conduct efficient literature searches. – Good writing skills.

Project description: In 2019, Student Minds launched their University Mental Health Charter to support universities to adopt a whole university approach to mental health. This focuses on principles of health promotion, engaging all stakeholders to support better mental health. Parents are a key stakeholder but have received relatively little attention. What role should parents and guardians play in supporting students at university? Parent involvement in a child’s school education is strongly encouraged. Indeed, such involvement has taken centre stage on key government policies such as the 2005 White Paper “Higher Standards, Better Schools for All – More Choice for Parents and Students”, the 2007 ‘Every Parent Matters,’ and the decision to include parental reports in school inspections. Evidence indicates that bringing parents into a child’s education can be beneficial. However, once a child turns 18 and attends university, parent involvement changes dramatically and there is little research to support policy. Studies have examined the role of parents at school level education. Here, staff, parents and pupils see parent involvement quite differently. For example, staff view parents as having a role supporting the school, whilst parents believe their role can centre around homework and pupils see the parent role as about moral support. We do not know how these perspectives change when students move to university. The aim of this study is to examine how university students and their parents see the role of parents in higher education. This internship will involve the successful applicant working alongside the supervisor to conduct a mini-review of the current literature. They will also conduct a small number of semi-structured interviews with academic staff about the topic before completing a thematic analysis of these interviews, alongside some previously conducted interviews with parents and students.

Description of work involved: There are three main activities for the student to achieve during this internship: – Work alongside the supervisor to conduct a mini-review of the current literature on the role of parents in university education. This will be a joint task with both supervisor and student searching literature and reviewing the papers. – Conduct approximately 15 short semi-structured interviews with academic staff about the role of parents in university (interview schedule already drafted). – Complete a thematic analysis of the above interviews alongside previously collected data from interviews with students and parents.

Student benefits: The student will develop their information literacy skills.- The student will develop skills in qualitative research methods, both conducting interviews and analysing transcripts.- The student will have the opportunity to work on a project that is at the forefront of higher education as the sector is starting to explore what a whole-university approach really means, and in particular to work on a project which addresses a significant gap in the literature.- During the internship the student will be invited to attend our ‘Addison House’ research meetings which brings together researchers from across psychology to present research (original or in the form of journal clubs). They will have the opportunity to present at these meetings if they wish, but this will not be obligatory.- It is expected that this project will result in a peer reviewed publication and therefore that the student will be an author on this paper.- We also intend to produce a short report to circulate around University Leaders (via the Principal Fellows network) and if appropriate the student would be an author on this as well.