BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Navigating the tensions of undergraduate life: An existential phenomenological analysis of personal growth and the role of coaching at a UK university

    Lancer, Natalie and Phillips, Natalie (2020) Navigating the tensions of undergraduate life: An existential phenomenological analysis of personal growth and the role of coaching at a UK university. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Natalie Phillips Thesis Navigating the tensions of undergraduate life September 2020.pdf - Full Version

    Download (3MB) | Preview


    This thesis is about how 14 undergraduates, aged 18-25, at a London university, who had one-to-one coaching with professional coaches over one or two years, perceived their personal growth. Existential phenomenology was used to frame and elucidate the studies within the thesis. Participants who had coaching for one year were interviewed four times while those who had coaching for two years were interviewed five times. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which yielded a fine-grained and multi-layered hermeneutic picture of participants’ experiences. Through the studies, I moved from an expansive analysis of how students made sense of university life and their personal quandaries to a more focused examination of the coaching experience itself. I discuss these studies theoretically, using existential phenomenological concepts. Personal growth has been conceptualised in many ways, including “toward fuller and fuller being” or “self-actualization” (Maslow, 1962/2011, p. 147) and the unfurling of an inner core towards fulfilling one’s innate potential (Waterman, 1984). In student development literature, growth has been conceptualised as vectors (Chickering, 1969) or stages (Baxter Magdola, 1999; Perry, 1970) that are passed through sequentially. However, I argue that these conceptualisations offer a partial perspective on how life is experienced by these students. I draw on a contemporary existential phenomenological approach (van Deurzen & Adams, 2016) and cast growth as becoming a better liver of life whilst navigating life’s challenges. I then reinvigorate the overlooked element of Perry’s (1970) framework; that is, the life tensions students must resolve. Based on my empirical work, I develop eight specific existential tensions situated in the university context and offer these as a flexible framework for students, their tutors and coaches to use when considering personal growth steeped in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day lived experience of students. Several practical implications and policy recommendations are discussed.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: Author's name on title page, Natalie Rachel Charlotte Phillips. This author is also known professionally as Natalie Lancer.
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2020 16:50
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:26


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item