• Part-time students in transition: supporting a successful start to higher education

      Goodchild, Allyson; University of Bedfordshire (Taylor and Francis, 2017-12-21)
      The transition into higher education is a critical time for all students. A positive early experience provides a strong foundation for future academic success whilst a negative experience can be destabilising for a new learner. To date, research has primarily focused on full-time undergraduates in order to explain the reasons for high attrition rates at the end of the first year. Less is known about the experiences of part-time undergraduates despite the fact that they make up over one quarter of the total student population (HESA, 2015). This article reports on a study to investigate the initial experiences of a group of part-time undergraduates who have chosen to undertake a degree at a small study centre run by one university. Using a mixed methods research approach, the research captured the lived reality of the experience and identified the contributing and negating factors that can influence a successful transition. Perceptions of the level and type of support provided for students during transition were gained from both staff and students. The findings confirm a heterogeneous group. Despite being highly motivated, the early transition period was generally characterised by a sense of trepidation and self-doubt as students took their first steps in higher education. The research highlights the complexity of the initial decision-making process for part-time students and the barriers they face. It concludes that a flexible but unified approach, involving tutors and the wider support services, is needed, as unique students require unique responses to their transition needs.