Managing Effective Transition Experiences for Direct Entry and Top-Up Students

A project group to develop consistency and good practice in managing the transition experience for direct entry students (particularly those progressing from HND/FD courses to Honours (Hons) Degree Top-Up), has been established. At its first meeting participants identified some of the potential challenges that may be faced by these students and current practice that is effective in supporting this transition.

Factors that may challenge/impede transition experience fall into the following key themes (summarised from previous UW research, surveys, learning and teaching projects and the QAA Enhancement Theme on ‘Student Transition’), in no specific order:

  • Environment
  • Social Factors
  • Expectations
  • Self-Belief/Student Self-Efficacy (Social and Academic)
  • Emotional/Resilience
  • Academic Challenge (perceived and real)
  • Learning Experiences
  • Academic Practices
  • Support
  • Communication
  • Practical, e.g. systems, processes.

Current practices identified which prepare/support direct entry students for transition include:

Building staff relationships between the HND/FD course team and the Top-Up/Hons Degree team (improves understanding of courses and student needs)

Proactive partner course team, visits of partner staff and students to the University to be introduced and learn about the systems, e.g. with academic librarians

A positive and productive relationship between key staff, e.g. the link tutor (for the HND/FD) and the course leader (where this is a collaborative course), and/or between the course leaders for both the HND/FD and Top-Up/Level 6 Hons Degree makes the transition smoother

ISES support HND students in making choices about progression and have criteria for entry to Level 5 and Level 6 depending upon the alignment to the Hons Degree route

Dedicated ‘Top-Up’ personal academic tutors (PAT) or designated liaison tutors who meet with direct entry students prior to transition and include meeting as a group during Level 6

FD Early Years Summer School to help students with independent study proposals (two days, July/early Sept)

ISES has a SAP project on the transition experience of students and use of peer-to-peer mentoring. Also use of Yammer groups as a professional network for students which they join in Welcome Week (Yammer is a free private social networking service used for communication within organisations). Also use of an existing Top-Up/Level 6 student to meet with potential Top-Up students at Level 5

Hold a module selection clinic to support process as some students find this very confusing (particularly as HNDs and FDs tend to be very structured courses with limited or no module choice)

Utilise the link tutor role on visits to partners, with scheduled transition progression talks

Curriculum alignment between HND/FD and Top-Up/Hons Degree at the course development stage, includes learning, teaching and assessment strategies as well as subject content and skills

Study skills support and other activities provided in induction week. May be having academic skills development in introduction and group activities/mandatory sessions for the Top-Up courses

Some HND courses share modules with Level 4 and Level 5 of Hons degrees, e.g. HND Computing. The HND Computing course leader is also the PAT for the course, and students are invited to the various activities and support events which degree students are able to take advantage of. Specific emphasis is also given to the support of international Top-Up students and the role of the link tutor

Some courses provide a specific Top-Up induction (e.g. for students progressing from FDs in health and social care). This should include an introduction for students who are new to campus

Use of Facebook as part of induction experience and as a way of building relationships with the course, staff and peers/other students both pre-course and when starting the course.

Have you examples of effective practice that you can share? Responses would be particularly welcome before 16th June 2017.

The project group plans some focus group work with students to seek their view on what is needed to support the transition and what in their experience has helped.

For more information on the project, contact Sue Cuthbert, Head of Collaborative Programmes
(email or phone 01905 855599).


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