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

Goldring, Tia, Harper, Emma, Jassal, Ricky, Joseph, Lorrianne, Kelly, Alison, Mulrooney, Hilda, Piper, Ian and Walker, Hayden (2018) Experience and expectations of transition to higher education : a qualitative exploration. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 13(1), ISSN (online) 2051-3615


Transition to higher education is challenging, and more so for some groups. The transition from Level 3 foundation year into Level 4 is an opportunity to explore student perspectives on transition. 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 participation amongst eligible Level 4, 5 and 6 students was limited. Despite the heterogeneous nature of Level 3 students the majority recognised the value of the foundation year. Most 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 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 studies, and clear consistent information available throughout an ongoing transition, may help to minimise these issues.

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