Current Projects

Internally and externally funded research and evaluation projects currently being undertaken at the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute are outlined as follows.

Please click on the links below for further details.

The Student Mental Health Support Project

In June 2019, the University of Lincoln was awarded £736,000 by the Office for Students to fund and evaluate the mental health support project ‘Transitioning students effectively: A student led approach to mental health support’

Working with students as they enter Higher Education and on several key areas of student mental health provision, the project team is currently exploring the preparedness of participants for the stresses of student life which can often lead to problems with mental wellbeing and achievement.  Transitional wellbeing advisors from the university’s wellbeing service are also running sessions at schools and colleges across the region, concentrating on providing tools and strategies for self-care pre entry to university.  To support the transitional outreach work, the digital team within the project is trialling a range of technologies including the FIKA ‘emotional fitness’ app and the UniHealth messaging service in order to establish their effectiveness and impact.  In addition, the team is working with student digital content creators to co-produce a range of videos, vlogs and blogs for young people.  All content is free to view and accessible to all and can be accessed via. the university’s Student Life page.  Additional project partners include local NHS services, Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire County Council, Lincoln College and Bishop Grosseteste University, with digital content creation supported by UniHealth, Fika and Expert Self Care.

The project itself is currently managed from within the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute and will continually gather qualitative and quantitative data from all stakeholders over the two-year funded lifetime. Feedback will be analysed using the recently developed Lincoln Impact Evaluation Framework (LIEF), in conjunction with programme level evaluation tools, and the evidence will be used to continually refine, improve and add to existing content.  One of the unique qualities of this project, and one of its key strengths, is the ability for the project team to make adjustments to activities in real time to meet student demand.  The University of Lincoln also has the opportunity to work with the other nine OfS funded projects across the UK to share resources, to achieve best practice and to develop strategies for impact and evaluation.

The Student Mental Health Support Project is managed by Zoe Mills.


The Lincoln Equality of Attainment Project (LEAP)

The ‘Lincoln Equality of Attainment Project’ (LEAP) began in 2019 in order to investigate and address the nationally recognised attainment gaps which exist among certain groups of students at the University of Lincoln.  LEAP also forms one of the core ‘success’ element of the university’s five-year (2020-2025) Access and Participation Plan (APP) aimed at encouraging students from traditionally under-represented and disadvantaged groups into Higher Education.

LEAP involves extensive collaboration with academic and professional support staff and students across the university, encouraging, managing and supporting various initiatives designed to promote inclusive practice in learning, teaching and assessment (including embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion or EDI into new programme validation events and staff training).  Several other ongoing projects also fall within the scope of LEAP, including the Inclusive Curriculum Project in the Lincoln International Business School (LIBS) and the BTEC Pilot project in the College of Social Science.  By developing and focusing on specific case studies, and exploring the barriers associated with equality of attainment, LEAP helps identify and promote good practice which recognises and reflects the diversity of the university’s staff and student body.

The LEAP Project is managed by Dr Xiaotong Zhu.

Xiaotong Zhu Profile Pic
The Student Access and Participation Plan Evaluation Project (APPEP)

The Access and Participation Plan Evaluation Project (APPEP)

The ‘Access and Participation Plan Evaluation Project’ (APPEP) has been evaluating the University of Lincoln’s Access and Participation Plan since 2017.  Access and Participation Plans demonstrate how Higher Education institutions aim to improve access, progression and success for under-represented individuals and/or students who identify with specified characteristics of disadvantage. 

All plans are monitored by the Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of Higher Education in England, to make sure that providers honour the commitments they make to students.  In detail, the APPEP team works with colleagues across the university to evaluate Access and Participation Plan interventions and their impact utilising the Lincoln Impact Evaluation Framework (LIEF), employing as wide a range of research methodologies as required.

The APPEP team also consult with students on an on-going basis in relation to the APP to explore institutional support and interventions for students from under-represented groups. They recently published three reports detailing the experiences of under-represented groups of students during the COVID-19 pandemic at the University of Lincoln, available here.

The team were recently awarded funding from the SMaRteN network (working with Amy Zile from the University of East Anglia) for their research project ‘Who Cares?: Identifying, understanding and supporting the work-life balance of students with caring responsibilities’. This cross-disciplinary, mixed-methods project aims to enable students with caring responsibilities (SCRs) to develop the evidence base about their wellbeing and student experience, improve understanding of the university journey and the challenges of achieving work-life balance particularly for minority ethnic and mature students and identify practical ways for universities to improve their support for SCRs.

The APPEP team set up a Widening Participation Community of Practice (WP CoP) of colleagues working in this important area at the University of Lincoln in 2019. The Community of Practice is a helping community which connects members, so they feel able to ask for help and to learn from each other. CoP sessions provide an opportunity for members to share their expertise and are bound by a common purpose and passion – supporting potential entrants from under-represented groups to access HE, do well and have the best experience possible and realise the benefits of HE in their future lives. Colleagues come together to share good practice, have guided discussions, create action plans and plan future projects. The CoP is formally incorporated into the APP project governance structure to ensure the group has a voice to influence decision making, and that decisions and discussions made by senior committees are communicated to and embedded in grass-roots practices. The CoP is facilitated by Rachel and Rebecca with Jacqueline Mayer, Head of Student Services.

Covid 19 Phase 1 report

Covid 19 Phase 2 report

Covid 19 Phase 3 report

The APPEP project is managed by Dr Rachel Spacey and Rebecca Sanderson.

Rachel Spacey Profile Pic Rebecca Sanderson Profile Pic
Uni Connect (formerly NCOP)

‘Uni Connect is an ongoing programme funded by the Office for Students (OfS) until July 2021. The programme (formerly the National Collaborative Outreach Programme or NCOP) was designed to help the government reach its social mobility widening participation target to double the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds going into Higher Education and increase the number of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) students and other groups in the sector by 2020. 

Within the programme, 29 local partnerships of universities and other key stakeholders aim to deliver targeted Higher Education outreach activities to young people in Years 9 to 13 attending schools and colleges, focusing specifically the 997 wards where the Higher Education participation of young people has been shown to be lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment alone.

The Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute (LHERI) has been commissioned by LiNCHigher to evaluate the impact of the second phase of Uni Connect across Lincolnshire where activities are being delivered in Boston, Gainsborough, Grantham, Lincoln City, South Holland and the Coastal area of the county.  The evaluation adopts a mix-methods approach employing both national and local survey data and information obtained from a small number of case study schools and colleges.  This will provide a holistic understanding of what works and where for students in particular contexts.  The evaluation will also draw on data from ‘Explaining the Gaps’ to enable the tracking of a number of Uni Connect students over the duration.

Evidence for the interim report was collected between March and July 2020 during the Covid-19 national lockdown when all schools were closed and included an online student activity survey, semi-structured interviews with School Leads and LiNCHigher Area Engagement Officers and student focus groups, conducted just prior to lockdown in early March. The evaluation found that, prior to Covid-19, interventions were beginning to have a positive impact on the Higher Education aspirations of all students’ and that schools both welcomed and highly valued the initiative. The evaluation report made several recommendations, including ensuring workshops are more interactive.

The report presents findings from the evaluation and makes recommendations for school, colleges, the LiNCHigher partnership, funders and policymakers. Evidence for the final report was collected between August 2020 and July 2021 during the ongoing disruption in schools and colleges caused by Covid-19. The evaluation took a mixed methods approach using quantitative and qualitative data sets comprising an end of year student outcome survey, a student activity survey, student focus groups and interviews with programme leads. The evaluation used the NERUPI framework to measure the impact of activities delivered as part of the programme. The report makes many recommendations including a need for the delivery of more activities aimed at developing students understanding through contextualised subject specific knowledge and attainment raising.

For project outputs and reports click on the links below:

NERUPI network report (March 2022) Collaborative research to explore experiences of outreach during the pandemic, NERUPI Uni connect partnerships
Uni Connect national learner survey (March 22) – Executive summary 
Executive Summary – End of Phase 2
Phase 2 – UC evaluation report









Uni Connect is managed by Dr Anthea Rose and Lucy Mallinson.

Anthea Rose Profile Pic Lucy Mallinson Profile Pic
Explaining the Gaps

‘Explaining the Gaps’ is a project commissioned by LiNCHigher and is run in conjunction with the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute’s local evaluation of the Uni Connect (formerly NCOP).  Funded by the Office for Students (2017-2021), LiNCHigher delivers a programme of outreach activities across Lincolnshire promoting Higher Education to young people in Years 9 to 13 at school as well as at local colleges. 

The main focus of the project is on the evaluation of provision and its impact across the 24 target wards in the county of Lincolnshire where the Higher Education participation of young people has been shown to be much lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment.  The project uses Lincolnshire-specific data from a larger and more centrally coordinated national survey, which is currently being run for the third year, to create an information bank describing the particular hurdles faced by young people in target wards.  In addition, the data has been stratified to school level and further by demographic characteristics making it possible to find ‘hidden’ sub-groups within larger cohorts.  The analysis provided by ‘Explaining the Gaps’ enables LiNCHigher to better target their activities within schools and colleges.







Explaining the Gaps is managed by Lucy Mallinson.

Lucy Mallinson Profile Pic