University of Strathclyde



The Pre-entry Access course is delivered by the university’s Centre for Lifelong Learning and is designed to assist students who would like to attend university to study for a degree who do not have traditional entry qualifications.

Data is available on students’ recruitment to university and retention during their studies, however very little is known about the students’ experience after graduation. 

This project gathered data from the Pre-Entry Access course students on their experiences during their course and after graduation.

The project sought to gather data on mature students’ experiences of their transition beyond university which could be used to capture the longer term impact of the Pre-entry Access course and enhance the student experience of future cohorts.  

The full research report is available to download below

This work was supported by Enhancement Theme funding from the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland


Centre for Lifelong Learning

Contact Details

Lynda Scott (


Student Transitions


The university is ‘committed to providing access to people from the widest possible range of backgrounds, to improve student retention and ensuring onward success.’  (Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020) The Pre-entry Access course plays a significant role in contributing to KPI1 of improving the widening participation profile, while maintaining entry standards.  Each year over 100 mature students are recruited onto the access course with approximately 65% residing in SIMD 0 – 40 areas.     

Data gathered on Pre-entry students experiences during the course and after graduation could be used to capture the longer term impact of the access course and enhance the student experience of future cohorts all of which will contribute to the development of graduates who are ‘knowledgeable, skilled and successful’ . (Strategic Plan 2015-2020) 


  1. The project commenced with recruitment of an undergraduate intern from the university’s student population to work on a part-time basis.
  2. To initiate the project the intern engaged with key student support services’ staff across the university to enhance understanding of the support available to mature students.  Key contributors included staff from the Careers Service, Mature Students’ Association and the Widening Access Team.
  3. Running alongside these series of meetings the intern examined the concept of ‘student transitions’ beyond university by conducting a literature review.
  4. The scope of the survey was determined and a questionnaire aimed at capturing data on past students covering a breadth of experiences was utilised.  The survey was sent to 117 former students of the Pre-entry Access Course and the alumni team contacted a further 29 University of Strathclyde graduates giving a total surveyed of 136.  There were a total of 28 responses.
  5. An analysis of the findings was presented along with recommendations in a final project report.

Key findings

Access course students were more than happy with the course.  They felt prepared for their time at university, they felt involved, and they made friends, worked hard and found that life changed for the better. The project focussed on the following areas:

Your Study   The majority of students reported that they were looking to further their career or change it as a result of completing the Pre-entry Access course. 70% of the respondents felt that the Pre-entry course prepared them for their time at university – most found the experience of essay writing and exams particularly useful.   The feeling of being connected and being part of the university community is important.

Lifestyle   79% reported that completing their degree has given greater financial stability to themselves and their families and 92% reported that their salary was somewhat or considerably better.  It was found that 3 graduates had increased their Quintile rating with the majority staying the same (however most had just recently graduated)

Further Learning   48% went on to do postgraduate study which is well above the national average of 14%.

Employment   72% of Pre-entry graduates are in paid employment, 100% saw an improvement in their career now or in the future. Students reported learning important transferable skills during their time at university including, working on own initiative and effective communication skills.


  1. Introduce tutorials to Pre-entry course.  One student reposted that they found tutorials ‘more useful when really trying to understand how to apply information from a lecture in practice.’ Running tutorials could be an effective way for students to get to grips with the material being taught and while the tutorial groups may be smaller it could be a good way for students to interact with each other and establish a community feeling.
  2. Expectations of an undergraduate degree course.  Several students fed back that they would like to see more information or discussion on what an undergraduate degree course entails. This could be incorporated into one of the Learning Support evenings.
  3. Referencing.  Students highlighted this through the survey and further questioning.  Guidance on this could be incorporated into the Learning Support evening from the Library.   A clear understanding of referencing would make a significant difference to students embarking on their degree study.
  4. Future Research. It could be interesting for future research to investigate the retention rates of those mature students who attended an access course and then went on to complete their degree at Strathclyde.   These drop put figures could be compared between those who attended the Pre-entry Access course and those who attended an access course at a further education college. It could be interesting to determine if the university retains these students over some others.    

Next steps

To date, the report has been well received by staff from the university and the recommendations are being considered.

Lessons learned

The project provided an opportunity to engage with past students of the University of Strathclyde Pre-entry Access course on their experiences during the course and after graduation. 

The student intern did have some difficulty in securing a suitable time for focus groups throughout the summer period despite using the offer of Amazon vouchers as an incentive to participate. Interaction with previous students may have been more successful after the summer months.

Student involvement

This was a completely student led project, albeit with support and guidance from staff at the Centre for Lifelong Learning.  The project provided a funded internship for the student who was herself a mature student with personal experience of a FE access programme.  Compiling the report after undertaking such a study developed the students’ skills, such as communication skills and ability to liaise with professionals across the university as well as report writing skills.  These skills will be invaluable to the student in her honours year. 


The full report is available to download below