Research on graduate debt transformed into comic strip by student artists

"The comic shows that the students we interviewed are real people with real concerns and hopefully readers can identify with them."

Dr Katy Vigurs, Associate Professor of Higher and Professional Education

A Staffordshire University Professor has teamed up with students from the School of Art and Design to present research on graduate debt in the form of a full length comic book.

Dr Katy Vigurs, Associate Professor of Higher and Professional Education, looked at the impact of increased student debt by interviewing numerous students graduating before and after the £9,000-a-year fee system was introduced.

The project, conducted with Dr Diane Harris and Dr Steven Jones from the University of Manchester, was funded by the Society for Research into Higher Education and revealed the financial pressures faced by many young people in higher education.

“Looking back over the interview transcripts we noticed how the students' descriptions of their experiences with student loans were so obviously visual.” explained Dr Vigurs.

“It made us think that we could translate the research into visual stories, so I approached the University's cartoon and comic arts department.” she added.

Dr Vigurs commissioned students on the BA (Hons) Cartoon and Comic Arts degree to transform the findings into a visual medium and a 15 page comic book was created.

“I think the brief was particularly interesting for the students because it's an issue so relevant to them.” said Dr Vigurs.

“At first we were only going to create a few images but the work was so good and it evolved organically into a whole comic book.”

The 'research informed comic' titled Higher Fees, Higher Debts: Greater Expectations of Graduate Futures? A Research-Informed Comic has received positive feedback from a wide audience of universities, financial advisers, students’ unions and senior management teams.

Dr Vigurs believes interpreting research through an alternative medium like this creates more of an impact and makes the findings more accessible to readers, especially a younger audience.

“Visual media are a brilliant way to reach a much wider audience. The comic shows that the students we interviewed are real people with real concerns and hopefully readers can identify with them.”

“We've had some fantastic feedback from fellow academics and now we're focussing on how the comic book can be used to educate young people in a critical way about student finance.”

Dr Vigurs added: “I've learned so much throughout this process. In future I will always aim to create a visual output to complement my research.”

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