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“It’s about not achieving the outcomes that you necessarily expected”: Non-formal learning in higher education

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Publication details

JournalTeaching in Higher Education
DateSubmitted - 21 Apr 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Oct 2018
DatePublished (current) - 9 Nov 2018
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)52-67
Original languageEnglish


This study explores students’ experiences of a non-formal living-learning community in a UK higher education institution. The participants were students from different countries and academic disciplines who came together with a shared interest in international development and human rights. The experiences of students were investigated using the capability approach (Sen 1999; Walker 2012) as a framework for understanding students’ personal development through their participation in the community. This approach focuses on the ability of the student participants to lead lives they have reason to value, and allows us to consider development beyond employability. The research included participant observations and interviews. We found there were four key features of the learning community that were important in fostering the outcomes they identified as valuable. We argue that it is beneficial to open such spaces in higher education, as they provide opportunities for student-led skills development and engagement with social justice issues.

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    Research areas

  • Non-formal learning; capability approach; valued outcomes; learning community; social justice education

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