First in family students – what they say about being at university
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Exploring what students say in semi-structured, open-ended interviews provides a rich and personal understanding of their encounters with the university. The opportunity to discuss the experiences of First in Family (FiF) students as they progress through their degree or reach its end allows us to gain insight into their reasons for attending university, their determination to stay and what they believe helped them succeed. This paper discusses the three main themes related to the FiF student experience we uncovered as a result of a detailed literature review and through our interviews. These themes are, their ‘journey’ into and through higher education; their position as ‘student’ which includes the demographic aspects as well as their own concepts of themselves as students; and, the ‘networks’ they have used and developed to succeed at university. The students’ insights may be used to encourage and help future FiF students to complete their studies.