Current Student Perspectives on QMUSU Sports and Sense of Belonging
Executive Summary Queen Margaret University Student’s Union (QMUSU) is a not-for-profit organisation that represents the interests of students at Queen Margaret University (QMU), offering a wide range of services and support to enhance the student experience (QMUSU 2021). A partnership was formed between the project lead and vice-president of the union to conduct a service evaluation of a single aspect of service provision, QMUSU Sport, and its relationship with a single aspect of the student experience, sense of belonging. Belonging is a vital part of human life and health and is connected to and created by engagement in meaningful occupation (Whalley Hammell 2014). At university, student sense of belonging is a core element of the student experience and is often linked to participation in the occupation of university sport (Ahn and David 2020; Thomas 2020). This service evaluation aimed to address a gap in QMUSU knowledge on how sense of belonging was being experienced by students at QMU and explored how their participation in QMUSU Sport contributed to this sense of belonging. A focus group was implemented to gather subjective insights from six university students on this topic, and Thomas’ (2006) general inductive approach was utilised to thematically analyse the emergent data. Four themes emerged from the analysis of the data, and the overall findings from these themes suggested that engagement in QMUSU sport contributed significantly to participants’ sense of belonging at university, and the social interactions and shared experiences involved with sport were reported to be the main factors behind this. Furthermore, student participation in university sport, and their subsequent belonging at university are influenced significantly by the accessibility and availability of sporting opportunities and facilities provided by QMUSU. These findings are of relevance to the sustainability of QMUSU sports provision. It is recommended that this project be expanded beyond these parameters to gain a more extensive understanding of how student participation in university sport can contribute to sense of belonging at university.