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The ‘campus imaginary’: Online students’ experience of the masters dissertation at a distance

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    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Teaching in Higher Education on 28/4/2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13562517.2017.1319809.

    Accepted author manuscript, 547 KB, PDF document

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-854
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Issue number7
Early online date28 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017


Higher education research has overlooked online distance Masters students’ experiences of independent research, and this is an important gap at a time when increasing numbers of taught postgraduate programmes are delivered online. This article discusses findings from interviews with eighteen graduates from four online Masters programmes. It introduces a key theme from the research: the concept of the ‘campus imaginary’, which emerged during analysis as a way of accounting for interviewees’ tendencies to attribute challenging experiences to being at a distance from their supervisors, peers and the university campus. Common issues for Masters students, such as unexpected obstacles, difficult supervisory relationships, lack of time, and feelings of isolation were interpreted by students as features of the online dissertation process. We argue that the over-privileging of the campus and the face-to-face experience affects students’ campus imaginaries, but that imaginaries also leave space for more productive ways of engaging with online students at the independent research stage.

    Research areas

  • masters dissertation, online distance students , imaginaries , independent research

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