Setting standards for student services
: Exploring the views of student support service professionals in higher education on their contribution to the student experience

  • Lisa Fortune

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


Student support services is a relatively unknown function within Irish higher education and is generally considered part of the broader non-academic administrative provision within HEIs. Findings from this qualitative study suggest that those employed in this area do not see themselves in this homogenous and generalist way, but as a diverse group of skilled professionals who espouse a shared goal of supporting student wellbeing at higher education which assists the academic mission of the HEI by enabling students to thrive academically. Yet they also perceive their work as being unrecognised or undervalued within their HEI and often struggle to articulate their status as a group and the valuable contribution they feel they make to the enhancement of the overall student experience within their institution.

In the absence of professional standards, sector-wide guidelines or a professionalising framework, their heterogenous nature may have implications for the development of a cohesive student service identity, both within the HEI and between the staff group themselves. Their varied academic and professional credentials, occupational backgrounds and lack of a pre-determined entry route into the student services support function may hinder the potential for a collaborative provision of service and a clear articulation of the contribution of the function within the HEI.

Despite the multiplicity of roles, diversity of support provision and lack of a shared professional identity, findings suggest that, collectively, those employed in student support services are greatly aligned in their approach and purpose. Consequently, their contributions to the student experience can be captured in three key areas of activity which help build students’ capacity to succeed and which are framed by five shared principles. This provides an opportunity for interprofessional collaboration and a contribution to the conversation regarding the professionalisation of student support services in Ireland.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorWilliam McClune (Supervisor) & Katrina Lloyd (Supervisor)


  • Student support services
  • Irish higher education
  • student experience
  • contribution
  • professional standards
  • interprofessional collaboration

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