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Research in Student Experience (RISE)

Research in Student Experience (RISE)

​The research in student experience (RISE) group investigates the many influences that impact upon student success, attainment and engagement at university. Research from the group feeds directly into our practice as academics and also into curricula developments across programmes.

We conduct internationally recognised research and publish in a range of journals such as: Studies in Higher Education, Psychology Teaching Review, the International Journal of Wellbeing and Widening Participation and Life Long Learning.


Research Areas 

Engaging non-traditional students (widening access and outreach programmes)

Closing the Gap - Building Bridges for lifelong learning: Dr Clare Glennan and Dr Lalage Sanders have engaged with research to explore students entering Higher Education (HE) via a series of outreach courses provided in community venues. Anecdotally, outreach may help overcome some of the barriers faced by 'non-traditional' students who may feel that university is "not for me" (Howard and Davies, 2012). We wanted to investigate whether this was true for our students. The results of this study are published in Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning

Erasmus - The European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS) supports students to pursue temporary periods of study in other European universities. Although much research exists about the experiences of international students, less attention has been given to the specific disciplines of studyERASMUS and the ways this might mediate the experience. It is with this in mind that Dr Jenny Mercer has sought to explore the differences in Psychology curriculums between Polish and UK universities, and the way in which Erasmus students from Poland have adjusted to study in a British university.

The impact of service learning on engagement

The focus of this project is students who are undertaking the Level 5 placement module, "Work, Volunteering and Applied Psychology." The module follows a service-learning module, which focuses on the importance of community-based volunteering to increase civic engagement in students. This study focuses on the motivation and expectations of students starting a placement and compares it with their experience on completion of the placement. Data collection will be completed through the academic year 2016-17.

Engagement, retention and wellbeing

Student Expectations and Engagement (SEET) Project: The focus of this project has been students undertaking a Foundation Year course prior to entering degree-level study to determine whether students feel prepared for their subsequent degree; building a successful foundation? We have undertaken three projectsEngagement retention and wellbeing so far. One such study of Level 4 students who completed a Foundation Year was funded by the Higher Education Academy Wales. This study sought reflections from current Level 4 students who had completed one of four Foundation courses across two universities, and collected Examining Board data to assess whether the performance of Foundation Year graduates is comparable to that of their peers. We also surveyed the number of Foundation Courses available according to the UK's University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) and found a confusing lack of consistency in the way these courses are described. The results of this study are published in Widening Participation and Life Long Learning.


Gender Differences in Engagement - Exploring the roots of male (dis)engagement in Psychology 

It is well established that there is a disproportionate number of makes to females studying Psychology in the UK, both at A Level and on degree courses. The purpose of this Higher Education Academy-funded project was to discover males' perceptions of Psychology, and how this might have influenced their subject choices at A Level or of university course.


Group Members

Head of Department (Psychology) and Principal Lecturer in Psychology
Dr Leanne Etheridge, Lecturer

Dr Jenny Mercer Dr Lalage Sanders
Principal Lecturer and
Graduate Studies Coordinator
Reader in Pedagogical



As a group, we work collaboratively with colleagues across Cardiff Metropolitan University, and with colleagues with similar interests in the student experience in the University of West England, Edinburgh University and the London College of Fashion.



Dr Michael Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology, Cardiff School of Sport

Dr Jan Huyton, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy



Dr Carolyn Mair, London College of Fashion 



British Academy: "Detecting Uncertainty, Improving Retention: A psychometric approach to reducing attrition in Higher Education." Investigators: Dr Lalage Sanders and Dr Carolyn Mair (London College of Fashion).

ESCalate Themed Funding - Student Well-being Grant: "Trainee teachers' physical and mental wellbeing: a study of university and school experience." Investigators: Dr Lalage Sanders and Dr Jan Huyton (Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy).

Higher Education Academy Mini Project: "Exploring the roots of male (dis)engagement in Psychology." Investigators: Dr Jenny Mercer, Dr Paul Sander, Dr S Williams (Newman College) and Dr Tim Jones (University of Worcester).

Higher Education Academy Wales - Wales Learning and Teaching Enhancement Fund for Wales: "Does it do what it says on the tin? The effectiveness of Foundation courses as measured by students' reflections and progression." Investigators: Dr Lalage Sanders and Dr Annette Daly.

Welsh Assembly Government New Ideas Social Research Fund: "Foundation Students' Expectations and Engagement." Investigator: Dr Lalage Sanders.


Key PublicationsRISE presentations

Our staff regularly present RISE research at conferences, the most recent include:

Cardiff Metropolitan University Learning and Teaching Conference (2016): Understanding Student Engagement

RAISE (2016), University of Loughborough: Excellence in Student Engagement

FACE (2016), University of Belfast: Closing the Gap - Bridges for Access and Lifelong Learning

BPS Welsh Branch Symposium (2015), University of South Wales: Student Expectation and Experience 


RISE Research Group publications include:

Mercer J., Clay J., Etheridge L. Experiencing term-time employment as a non-traditional aged university student: a Welsh study. Research in Post-Compulsory Education. 2016 Jan; 21 (3): 181-95.

Mercer J., Sander P., Williams S, Jones T. Pre-tertiary males' accounts of psychology as a subject choice. Psychology Teaching Review. 2013 Spr; 19 (1): 9-20.

Demery R., Thirlaway KJ., Mercer J. The experiences of university students with a mood disorder. Disability and Society. 2012 Apr; 27: 519-33.

Heggs DA., Mercer J., Durniat K. ERASMUS partners in conversation: Psychology at the University of Wroclaw and University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. Psychology Teaching Review. 2011; 17 (2); 38-59.

Mercer J., Heggs D. "'s difficult to study psychology in a different way": reflections of Polish ERASMUS students on a year of a psychology degree in the UK. Polish Journal of Applied Psychology. 2011; 9 (2): 7-25.