Dr Arnaud Chevalier

Project team: Royal Holloway London

Dr Michael Tomlinson

Project team: University of Southampton

Dr Jessica Gagnon

Project team: University of Portsmouth

Dr Emily Mason-App

Project team: University of Portsmouth

A collaborative project, funded by the Office for Students and led by the University of Portsmouth, to better understand student experience and how to enhance learning

As part of a £4 million national initiative exploring learning gain (the skills, knowledge or personal development that undergraduates gain through their degree) the University of Portsmouth has been funded by the Office for Students (OfS) to lead one of 13 pilot projects.

Many claims are made about the benefits of going to University but few measures have been developed to assess whether these benefits are achieved. Working in collaboration with the University of Southampton, Royal Holloway, and the University of the Arts, London, this project aims to:

  1. Develop and trial psychometric questionnaires of learning gain that will be reliable, valid, and free for use by other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The self-report measures to be developed will focus on personal development and employability identity.
  2. Gain an in depth understanding of different stakeholders' conceptions of learning gain (students, staff, parents, and employers).
  3. Provide results that will inform policy makers and HEIs on how to improve their degree programmes.

Find out more about the OfS learning gain programme.

To stay up to date with information about the Learning Gain project, follow us on Twitter @UOPLearningGain

About this project

The Learning Gain project, led by the University of Portsmouth, aims to explore stakeholders' views of learning gain, and develop and trial psychometric questionnaires of learning gain that will focus on the development of non-cognitive skills. Our mixed methods longitudinal project includes qualitative and quantitative elements.


The aims of the qualitative elements of our projects are to:

  • Gain an understanding of stakeholders' perceptions of learning gain and "graduateness"
  • Explore the similarities and differences between stakeholders' perceptions
  • Use these perceptions to inform psychometric tool development

There are four main elements to the qualitative part of our project:

  1. HE Staff Focus Groups
  2. Student Focus Groups
  3. Graduate Employer Interviews
  4. Parent Postcards

We are still in the process of collecting qualitative data. If you would like to know more about how to get involved and share your views as a stakeholder, then please contact the lead Research Fellow: Dr Emily Mason-Apps – emily.mason-apps@port.ac.uk


The aims of the quantitative element of our project are to:

  • Develop reliable and valid psychometric tests of undergraduates' learning gain (non-cognitive skills). We are focusing on the development of students' non-cognitive skills as a route to understanding the transformational potential of Higher Education. These non-cognitive skills include:
    • Graduate Capital/ Employability Identity (an individual's attitudes to, and beliefs about their readiness for, employment);
    • Self-Efficacy (an individual's beliefs in their ability to complete tasks and reach goals);
    • Self-Esteem (an individual's overall subjective evaluation of their own worth);
    • Implicit Theories (an individual's underlying beliefs about the nature of intelligence); and
    • Learner Resilience (an individual's approach to challenges and set-backs in learning).
  • Explore the development of these factors and relationships between them
  • Understand the degree to which engagement with university life determines transformation.
  • Understand if any demographic factors (BME status, Gender, Age, and First Generation Status) determine engagement with university life and/or transformation.

For the undergraduates who consent to take part, data will be collected at three points during the course of their studies.

Students that take part in the research will be given summaries of key findings at key stages of the project (via our project website and twitter) and at the end of the project (via email). In addition, an individual report will be provided to each participant showing their change over the course of their degree (at the end of the project). These reports can be used to inform their own development action planning and employment interview responses.

We hope the results of this project will help higher education institutions to understand and enhance undergraduate learning gain and inform developments in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

Quantitative data collection progress

In January 2017, we completed Time Point 1 data collection for Level 4 students at the University of Portsmouth, University of Southampton, Royal Holloway, and University of the Arts, London.

Main Cohort- Data collection timeline:

  • Time Point 1: Beginning October 2016 Complete
  • Time Point 2: Beginning October 2017 Complete
  • Time Point 3: Beginning September 2018

We are also following a smaller cohort of Students from the University of Portsmouth who completed the Time Point 1 survey at the end of Level 4 (year 1) in May/June 2016.

Portsmouth Only Cohort- Data collection timeline:

  • Time Point 1: Beginning May/June 2016 Complete
  • Time Point 2: Beginning May/June 2017 Complete
  • Time Point 3: Beginning May/June 2018

Dissemination and Results

We recently presented at our Annual Learning and; Teaching Conference (9th June 2017).

We presented our progress to date, as well as some preliminary finding.