First Year Belonging Survey

Participant Information Sheet


Sarah Walker is a professional staff member working within the Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience)’s portfolio. She is currently working as the Manager of Engagement and Success, the team primarily responsible for transition programs such as Orientation Week, and community building activities to increase the connection students feel with the University, each other and the local community. Through her 9 years at ANU she has been responsible for designing, implementing, evaluating and managing a number of student focused programs including those support transition to university and was instrumental in the University opening transition programs to domestic students in 2012. Her interest lies in developing further support for equity students based on research and praxis. Due to the size and expected impact of this longitudinal study, it is forming the basis for her PhD in order to contribute to conversation on orientation and transition impacts.

Project Title

Sense of self and belonging in university students participating in first year support program

General Outline of the Project

  • Description and Methodology: This project is an examination of sense of belonging, challenges and opportunities for incoming domestic undergraduate students. We are particularly interested in those who engage in University run transition programs such as attending Orientation Week or participating in a mentoring program. Student experience and outcomes will be monitored through a series of surveys conducted over 5 years as well as  information already held centrally by the University: gender, age, language(s) spoken, home address postcode, economic status, school attendance (i.e. public, private, distance), first-in-family status, study load and on or off-campus accommodation. This study will be conducted through a number of online surveys with participant identities blinded to researchers. This means that the survey response for each participant will be linked together and connected to the participant’s demographic data but participant responses will not be linked back to, or stored with, identifying data.
  • Participants: Domestic undergraduate students who begin study at The Australian National University from February 2020-February 2023 are invited to participate through email in a series of surveys.
  • Use of Data and Feedback: The results of the surveys will be analysed and utilised to learn the potential value of orientation and transition activities on a student’s transition and outcomes. The resulting reports will be utilised internally at ANU with all results presented to minimise the likelihood of identification. The survey will also be used to inform research protocol for the survey being distributed in 2021.

    Participants will be able to view the results of the study here:

Participant Involvement

  • Voluntary Participation & Withdrawal: Your participation in the project is voluntary, you are in no way required to participate, and you may, without negative consequences, decline to take part or withdraw from the research without providing an explanation at any time. You may choose to participate in only part of the research, i.e. complete one survey but decline to participate in the others. If you do withdraw, your data will be destroyed and not used.
  • What does participation in the research entail? You will be asked to complete two surveys a year from 2020-2024. The survey will cover your participation in University events/activities, and your thoughts and experiences with: identification as a member of the University community, student norms, experiences in classes and on campus, social support, external and internal pressures, and measures of wellbeing, self-esteem and mood. 
  • Location and Duration: The surveys will be conducted online and are estimated to take 10-12 minutes to complete totalling approximately 25 minutes per year. If you participate in all of the surveys in this project this will take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes over 4 years.
  • Risks: There are no known risks associated with participating in this project. Specific information, such as location, participation in a transition program, etc. will be combined to create cohorts of participants for analysis and discussion to reduce the likelihood of identification. For example, responses may be split into groups from metropolitan areas (ma), 50km from ma, 300km from ma and great than 300km from ma.

    As with any survey requiring self-reflection, however, there is always a possibility that some questions might bring up issues for you. As the survey is focused on pressures experienced during your time at ANU, connection that you may have to the University and other students as well as the sense of support you feel you have there is the potential that this will raise feelings or discomfort or distress. If this is the case, recall you are free to withdraw at any time without penalty and also that there are support resources available through ANU (see below).
  • Benefits: It is unlikely that you will benefit personally from participating in this research but you will have the opportunity to provide insight into the highlights and key areas for improvement in regards to student transition, sense of belonging and connection to ANU. An improved connection to ANU and sense of belonging increases the likelihood of the overall success at university of other students like yourself.


  • Confidentiality: Responses to this survey will remain confidential, so far as the law allows. Raw data will be stored securely and access will be restricted to an individual who will remove your identity and provide the researcher only a unique code to connect your data together. This means responses will be able to be linked across surveys but your individual response will not be stored with identifying data. Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that individual participants are not identified in any reporting (e.g. quantitative reporting will be suppressed for subgroups with a sample of five people or less).

Privacy Notice

Australian privacy law (or rules) require me to tell you how my University handles your private information, and you can ask me to give you more details of that or how you can find out what information we have about you and to fix it if it is wrong.

In collecting your personal information within this research, the ANU must comply with the Privacy Act 1988. The ANU Privacy Policy is available at and it contains information about how a person can:

  • Access or seek correction to their personal information;
  • Complain about a breach of an Australian Privacy Principle by ANU, and how ANU will handle the complaint.

Data Storage

  • Where: The data is held within Qualtrics while the survey is in the field, a period of two weeks and then downloaded from Qualtrics, deleted from Qualtrics and then held with ANU systems. Data will continued to be stored according to ANU privacy requirements and will be provided in de-identified to the researcher.
  • How long: The data will be stored for a period of at least five years from the date of any publication arising from the research on ANU computers in line with the requirements of ANU and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
  • Handling of Data following the required storage period: At the end of the storage period the data will be archived to allow later use of data provided without exposing you to new or additional risks. Later research could include a study that tracks the long term impact of changes to student support and engagement provided by ANU.

Queries and Concerns

For further information about this project, please contact:

Sarah Walker
Engagement and Success

Dr Lillian Smyth, PhD supervisor,
ANU College of Health and Medicine

Contact Details if in Distress

Support services

ANU Counselling Centre, available 9am – 4.45pm: (02) 6125 2442
ANU Crisis Line available 24/7: 1300 050 327
Lifeline available 24/7: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline (5-25yr olds 24//7): 1800 55 1800
QLife Phone and Online Chat available 3pm – midnight: 1800 184 527
eheadspace (12-25yr olds): 1800 650 890 or online chat