Experiences of men in the minority: understanding men’s sense of belonging studying primary education, nursing and social work in higher education

Lucy Grimshaw*, Sue Jackson, David Littlefair, Andrew Melling

*Corresponding author for this work

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Male students are in the minority in nursing, social work and primary education university programmes leading to professional recognition. This article explores the experiences of men studying on these professional programmes in Higher Education (HE) in the United Kingdom. A phenomenographic methodology was used to explore male students’ conceptual understanding of their education experience. The findings suggest these students can struggle to ‘fit in’ across four conceptual categories (i) Forming Relationships; (ii) Standing Out and Singled Out; (iii) Confronting Gendered Expectations; (iv) Developing Careers. These categories are discussed in relation to the notion of a sense of belonging in HE enabling considerations of similarities and differences across male students’ experiences. All participants conceived their education experience as pervaded by gendered experiences which intersect with age, sexuality and choice of profession. Most male students in the study found ways to develop a sense of belonging within university life and to fit in socially but representational and communication practices meant that most had experience of exclusion, particularly during placements. Male primary education students experienced a greater sense of belonging within their peer group aided by greater numbers of males on the programme. We conclude that partnership working between university, placement staff and students is required to raise awareness, challenge and not perpetrate stereotypes in order to provide inclusive, supportive environments for male students in the minority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number1
Early online date27 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024

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