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What does it mean to belong?

From clubs and societies to year groups and student unions, student life has always been conceptualised as a time of togetherness, affiliation, connection, and kinship. The university in these senses, is much more than an abstract ideal. It is a concrete space where the energy of real-life places and rituals is paramount. Indeed, the sense that a person is doing something with others, as part of a broader experience that stretches and unites across time and space, has always been fundamental to the university as an institution: from rituals of arrival (orientation and welcoming events) and departure (graduation ceremonies) to university mascots, mottos, and generational folklore. The COVID-19 pandemic sundered us from this space - from the energy, connections and rituals of university life. Moreover, the subsequent cost-of-living and housing crisis has impacted profoundly the practical abilities of both staff and students to enjoy and flourish in campus life fully. These realities have left many feeling disconnected, disengaged and disenchanted with university life. Our aim is to reconnect with and rekindle a sense of what it means to belong so as to understand and cultivate belonging in the post-pandemic university. We do this in recognition of the centrality of belonging to human well-being and with a desire to foreground staff/student voice and experience of this tacit but essential component of university life.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Belonging and the Post-Pandemic University project, please contact or any member of the project team.