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Fishes in water? A longitudinal investigation of the transition experiences of students from one further education college to higher education

BECKETT, Melanie (2021) Fishes in water? A longitudinal investigation of the transition experiences of students from one further education college to higher education. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

Transitioning from further education to higher education can be problematic. Previous research found young people do not necessarily understand the transition process, how to study independently and struggle to adapt to their new environment. Whilst some individuals perceive going to university as a natural progression, others do not. Especially where they are non-traditional students or the first in their family to attend university, where social class and socio-economic background may influence decision-making. Widening Participation and massification of higher education exacerbate the problem.

This close-to-practice (CtP) research is a longitudinal study over a three-year period. Initially the whole population n=101 of a 16-18 year old cohort participated, although some left during their 2-year ‘A’ level programme. Twelve of the cohort were followed onto their first undergraduate year at university. The study employed mixed methods, including questionnaires and observations in year 1 and 2 and semi-structured interviews in year 3; the data was triangulated in this essentially qualitative study. Bourdieu’s conceptual tools of habitus and field are applied and his metaphor of being ‘a fish in water’ extended to ‘a fish out of water’ to devise a conceptual framework of ‘sinking’, ‘swimming’ and ‘surfing’. This ultimately developed into a more complex typology, which explained the extent to which participants coped with the transition to higher education.

Attending university results in a complex interplay between social and academic factors, social issues included being bullied, homesickness and making new friendships. Academically, assessments, lectures and study skills proved problematic. Over half of the 12 participants interviewed in year 3 of the study doubted their abilities at times and questioned their right to be at university, resulting in emotional turbulence. This study provides recommendations for better communication and sharing good practice for institutions and their agents, policy recommendations for current university access arrangements and how students’ independent learning techniques might be improved.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2022 16:31
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 14:03

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