Engagement: Exploring the Impact of Alumni Activity at Universities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America

Storey, Ami (2018) Engagement: Exploring the Impact of Alumni Activity at Universities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The role of Alumni is becoming increasingly prominent within higher education as universities begin to turn their attention towards their former graduates to support and fulfil both the corporate and development aspirations of the university. Thus, universities are gradually working with their past graduates to develop and strengthen engagement, affiliation, and affinity with the aim of generating higher levels of – often financial- assistance from their alumni who are perceived as an asset of the university. It is apparent that as students some will develop a stronger affinity with the university than other students, and for some alumni, giving back has become a routine. But what has motivated them to exhibit such behaviour?

The purpose of the study is not to offer a direct comparison but to explore two distinct alumnus cultures. One, a historically renowned successful culture and two, an emerging culture beginning to become more established within organisations in the UK. The project addresses the following research questions:
1- To understand how alumni and alumni teams are integrated into universities in the UK and USA.
2- To explore how relationships are cultivated between alumni and universities through engagement.
3- Identify key motivations that can assist alumni teams to categorise alumni based on characteristics that may have been influenced through student experience.

The methodological approach of this study is in the form of a small group case study, with six institutions in both the UK and USA. Semi structured individual interviews took place with alumni and alumni representatives at each institution via telephone. Coupled with an information gathering questionnaire and document analysis the thesis draws on multiple data collection methods. The presentation of data and the findings have taken a narrative approach as many of the participants have their own stories to tell regarding their alumni engagement experience. The conceptual framework draws on the work of Bourdieu and his concepts of Habitus, Social and Cultural Capital. There are several key findings to emerge from the data collated during this research. The first being that the age of an alumnus dictates how engaged they are and by what methods. The second being that alumni teams are often under resourced and therefore resort to mass methods of engagement and communication over more personalised engagement. As a result, the alumni themselves must be proactive and see out engagement opportunities particularly in the UK. The final finding to emerge from the data was that the type of donation a university receives differs. Alumni donate both their time and money, and both are valuable assets to the university.

The purpose of conducting this research was to explore the alumni culture across two different education systems and countries. Gaining an understanding of how alumni departments are integrated into a university and what effect this has on their ability to deliver a successful alumni programme with a credible image university wide. Building relationships are a key part of this process and the study aimed to explore how a relationship is cultivated and maintained between alumni and their former institution. The final objective of the research was to identify key motivations of why alumni engage and what this means for alumni teams. Motivations differ because of age and student experience, as a result alumni teams work hard to engage all their alumni.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philanthropy, Education, Motivation
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 16:06
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:31
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/39711

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