From further to higher education: Transition as an ongoing process

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This paper argues that transition is not a one-off event that occurs when students first enter universities but is an on-going process that is repeated over time. We draw on qualitative data from a longitudinal project on ‘non-traditional’ students who entered a research-intensive university in Scotland direct from further education colleges. This cohort of 45 was asked about their views on college and university learning in a study that was conducted throughout their time at university; a sub-sample of 15 was then followed up ten years later. Our data suggest that four significant transitions, or set of critical moments, can be identified: the loss of a sense of belonging on coming to university; learning to fit in by the end of the first year; changing approaches to learning and belonging in the final years of study; changing selves in the years following graduation. At each point positive relationships with peers and staff made a significant difference to how these transitions were managed. Moreover, the changes experienced continued to have an impact on the personal and professional lives of the cohort.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-406
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education
Issue number3
Early online date27 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2017


  • transition processes
  • belonging
  • relationships
  • changing selves


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