How does a vocational qualification (BTEC) prepare students for a degree in Biosciences at a research intensive university?

Elizabeth R Hurrell, Emma Shawcross, Edward Keeling


Over the last decade the number of students coming to university with a BTEC qualification has risen. As BTEC students are more likely to come from widening participation backgrounds, accepting students with a BTEC qualification has been instrumental in helping universities to broaden access to Higher Education. However, the poorer progression and retention of students attending university with a BTEC qualification is a key area of concern. The aim of this study was to explore the transition experience of Biosciences students entering university with a BTEC qualification in order to better target support for these students. Focus groups with current students who entered university with a BTEC qualification, and semi-structured interviews with teaching staff at feeder colleges, highlighted that the BTEC equipped students with many transferable skills relevant to university study. In particular it prepared students for time management, report writing, practical laboratory work and working independently. However, our findings suggest that further support is required in mathematics, chemistry, examination and revision techniques. We propose that instilling confidence, encouraging friendship groups, more transparent advertising and developing inclusive curricula may help to improve BTEC student retention and progression. 


Widening Participation; BTEC; transition; progression; retention; Higher Education; Bioscience

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New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences

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