Experience and expectations of transition to higher education: a qualitative exploration

Tia Goldring, Emma Harper, Ricky Jassal, Lorrianne Joseph, Alison Kelly, Hilda Mary Mulrooney, Ian Piper, Hayden Walker


Transition to higher education is challenging, and may be more difficult for some groups than others. The transition from level 3 foundation year into level 4 offers the opportunity to explore student perspectives. Qualitative survey and focus group data were collected from current and previous Level 3 students, to ascertain student perceptions about induction, level of belonging, confidence about Level 4 and to identify useful support sources.  Over a third of eligible Level 3 students (n=102) participated, but numbers of eligible participants from Levels 4, 5 and 6 were limited. Despite the heterogeneous nature of Level 3 students the majority of students recognised the value of the foundation year. Data suggested that Level 3 students did not identify with the university. Those who did highlighted the importance of social outlets such as clubs and societies. A major cause of dissatisfaction was perceived lack of clarity about the foundation year, including the programme, subjects and physical location of the course. This was apparent across all ethnicities, age groups and both genders. Among previous Level 3 students, personal sources of support were uniformly valued although the precise source varied by year of study. Support from academic staff, via office hours and as personal tutors, was rated as most important.  Enabling academic staff to offer support to students throughout their study, and clear consistent information available throughout an ongoing transition, may help to minimise these issues.


Transition; support; clarity; belonging

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