Evidence Review: Understanding the value of sport and physical activity in tertiary education

About the research:

This evidence review was conducted by the Brunel Centre for Sport, Health and Wellbeing in the spring of 2013. This work was commissioned by Scottish Student Sport and supported by sportscotland. Two key questions guided the review:

  1. What is the impact of sport and physical activity in relation to health, employability, academic achievement, inclusion and identity, and social networks/sociability in tertiary education?
  2. What factors shape the implementation of effective sport and physical activity programmes in tertiary education?

Key findings and recommendations:

This report finds that while there are strong theoretical grounds for believing that sport and physical activity can contribute to a range of positive outcomes in tertiary education, there is a marked absence of rigorous data to support this. More specifically, there is an underdeveloped empirical evidence base for the benefits of sport participation to each of the areas addressed in the review (health, employability, academic attainment, inclusion and identity and social networks).

This absence of evidence does not of course mean that such benefits do not occur. However, the lack of evidence does make it difficult for organisations and institutions to develop clear strategies for future work. To address this, the overarching recommendation is for sector-led collaborative approaches which draw on existing expertise in the Scottish tertiary education sector, to develop a stronger evidence base for the value of sport and physical activity through high quality, credible research, monitoring and evaluation.