University of Strathclyde

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Overview

Summary

This short project was designed to investigate how students who entered the University through non-standard routes found the transition from school to University. The project was designed to fall in with the QAA theme relating to Students’ Transitions into Higher Education. The focus of our study was aimed at those students who had entered the University at 2nd year with Advanced Highers or A-Levels. The full report is available below.

This work was supported by Enhancement Theme funding from the QAA.

Context

Faculty of Science

Contact Details

Dr Nigel Langford

http://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/langfordnigeldr/

Dr Debbie Willison

https://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/willisondebbiedr/

Themes

Student Transitions

Rationale 

For prospective Scottish students who plan to follow a science/engineering career path the Advanced Higher (AH) in a given STEM subject has become the natural follow on from the Higher in that subject. The syllabi of most AH science subjects aligns with that delivered in first year at Strathclyde and in recognition of this the Science Faculty has introduced the High Flyer Programme designed to attract well qualified students, taking the appropriate AH subjects, into second year. The aim of this project was to survey and interview students who have previously entered into year 2 to find out how they perceived their transition and identify areas for improvement. 

Successes

The student interns who managed this project produced a comprehensive report, available below, which identified several areas for improvement:

  1. Give all direct entry students access to their course’s previous year’s notes/study aids on MyPlace to help them with understanding of expected prior knowledge for some classes.
  2. For direct entry students to attend their faculty’s first year induction alongside current first year students to give them an introduction to university life.
  3. During Freshers’ Week, a ‘speed meeting’ type event could be arranged for direct entry students from across all faculties.
  4. To provide introduction to MyPlace/Pegasus sessions to direct entry students.
  5. Introduce an E-mentoring scheme for direct entry students to connect with current students over the summer before they move to Strathclyde.
  6. Direct Entry Student society could be set up. 
  7. Set up a Facebook-based peer support forum specifically aimed at direct entry students.
  8. MyPlace quizzes for direct entrants to determine whether any extra help is required with first year content.

 These have been carefully considered and a number of suggested improvements have been implemented by the Faculty.

Lessons Learnt

If this exercise was to be repeated it would be more effective if it was carried out in the 2nd semester prior to the Easter vacation.

Challenges

The major challenges resulted from the small sample size and the timing of the project. In Science, at the time the project was undertaken, there were only 45 students who had entered the 2nd year directly. Of these students 22 completed the survey. The project was undertaken just after the examination diet when most students had left the University for the summer vacation. As a result the focus group only attracted seven students and so it was difficult to identify any common themes.

Scalability

For Science, 45 students were contacted and 22 completed the survey with a further 7 attending the focus group. This work could easily be extended across all Faculties in the University. The two academics involved in this project have now been appointed to Faculty management positions which would limit their ability to do this personally, however, they would be willing to share their experiences with colleagues from the other three Faculties who could progress this work in their own specific areas. 

Suggestions for Transferability

As the report highlights ways in which the transition for students entering the University beyond first year could be enhanced, the report has been sent to the University International Recruitment Committee for their information. The report has also been disseminated to the Faculty’s Learning Enhancement Committee and the outcomes already presented at a University wide-level by Dr Willison.

Student involvement

The project was managed and run by the student interns. They designed the questionnaire and managed the focus groups. The students also undertook interviews with members of staff in most departments in the Faculty of Science.

Attachments