Studies in higher education. Volume 45 (3). pp. 622-634.

Students’ sense of belonging is known to be strongly associated with academic achievement and a successful life at university. To achieve a comprehensive understanding of belonging, this study collected data via the 10 Words Question. Responses from 426 participants were analysed using a sequence of analytic methods including In Vivo coding, systematic coding, clustering, and contingency analysis. The results show that, in addition to academic and social engagement, there are two additional domains of belonging which are often neglected: surroundings and personal space. Surroundings equate to participants’ living space, and geographical and cultural location, while personal spaces refer to life satisfaction, life attitudes, identity and personal interests. Both positive and negative data demonstrate the complex and multi-dimensional character of belonging in higher education. The study concludes that policies for student engagement in higher education should reflect all four domains to support the full range of students’ experiences.