This project was carried out over the period 2005–2009 by Felicity Laurence and Dawn Weatherston (ICMuS), and sought to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a music undergraduate. The project involved a longitudinal study following undergraduates through their three/four year programme in ICMuS.

Interviews were carried out with a focus group of six students over the entire period, with one-hour recorded interviews at the beginning, middle and end of each year, subsequently explored using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. The project was designed overall to:

  • be ‘naturalistic’
  • focus on formal and well as formal learning
  • capture the complexity and authenticity of case studies
  • employ semi-structured interview schedules
  • sample purposefully in order to gain an impression of a spectrum of experience
  • acknowledge that the rapport between interviewer and interviewee is of paramount importance

Themes arising from the interviews were followed up in large scale questionnaires over the entire student population in ICMuS. Findings indicated that aspects of transition theory can help explain student trajectories over the period of study. One aspect that emerged was the tendency in the first year for students to experience a strong ‘dip’ in terms of wellbeing and confidence at around the halfway point, in January. This has implications for the practice of setting examinations at that time. Overall, there was a strong narrative of the central and crucial importance to students of both peer and tutor support at meaningful levels and at all stages.

The project was funded by Newcastle University’s internal Innovations Fund, and its findings are summarised in Dawn Weatherston and Felicity Laurence, ‘Changing Lives: perspectives from a study of six music undergraduates in their first year’, in Pieterick, J; Ralph, R; Lawton, M (eds.), EFYE Conference Proceedings 2008, University of Wolverhampton 2008, 205–11.