Project Unknown is a reality series that follows nine students from diverse backgrounds through their first year of university.

The students are interviewed across five seasons, each of which represents a key point in their experience: the first week of university, the middle of semester one, the beginning of semester two, exam week of semester two and the end of their first year. The aim was to capture the uncertainties, challenges and issues faced by students over first year, with specific themes emerging around identity, engagement and student success. The series shows just how much growth can take place in one year at university and the importance that first year has in establishing student identity, engagement and interest with their studies and institution.

This presentation was a special session at the 2014 International FYHE Conference which outlined the story behind creating the series, including the need to understand issues around first-in-family and non-traditional students and the research components the process helped inform.

Dr Patrick Delaney (Student Success and Retention, QUT) and Kate Flynn (Equity Services, QUT)

View the trailer for Project Unknown:

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The full series can be found on the Project U website under ‘Cool stuff’:


Dr Patrick Delaney
Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Learning and Teaching Unit
Queensland University of Technology

DelaneyP_2014Patrick is a post-doctoral research fellow within the Student Success and Retention team at QUT. His research explores the student experience, including individual learning styles, student identity, engagement and success, with a focus on social inclusion and diverse learning. As part of his research Patrick is developing a number of short film series on these topics using real students. The aim is to provide higher education practitioners and prospective students with a realistic sense of the university experience. His research combines social science methods with digital storytelling to create topical artefacts that aim to inform, educate and demystify.

Kate Flynn
Communications Coordinator, Equity Services
Queensland University of Technology

Kate FlynnKate is an award-winning copywriter who has worked in higher education for 11 years and whose expertise in audience-focused communication has been utilised to build the post-school aspirations of low-income and Indigenous school students and adults through innovative, collaborative design and delivery of people-rich, narrative-based initiatives. Kate’s pioneering narrative work on won her an innovation award and two multimedia award nominations. Kate leads the communication functions of the Equity Services Department and recently received a Citation Award for 2013 Australian Awards for University Teaching for the Explore Uni program, and a nomination for a Program Award for QUT’s Widening Participation Outreach Program.