22 SES 04 D, Student Transition: Diverse Perspectives
The transformation of the student finance system in England in 2012 has fundamentally changed the relationship between universities and students, with undergraduates now paying all or most of the costs of study (Dearden et al., 2011). Whilst preliminary analysis suggests that the undergraduate full-time provision has not changed substantially, student numbers do look to have declined substantially in terms of part-time provision for both undergraduate and postgraduate student numbers; additionally, the numbers of mature students enrolling have decreased (ICOFa, 2013, ICOFb, 2013). One of the general concerns relating to the fee rise was whether students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be in a worse situation than their better-off counterparts with much concern being directed toward how the costs of studying could lead to the virtual exclusion of some lower income groups. Although there is no indication that this has happened so far (HEFCE, 2012), the existing gap between the more and less advantaged areas is still wide, ‘with an average of 12.2% of individuals from low-income backgrounds studying for a degree compared with 30.4% from high-income backgrounds’ (Dearden et al., 2011: 18). Alongside the change in student fees, there has been a shift in policy-discourse to place the ‘students at the heart of the system’ and focus on ‘student experiences’ at university (BIS, 2011).
This research provides a comprehensive picture of the student journey at an English university after the tuition fee rise in 2012. Through the ongoing data-collection that follows the entrants of 2013 this research gives insight into the multiple transitions a full-time undergraduate Home student goes through at the University of Sheffield. The research analyses the multiple transitions students make throughout their university years from a holistic viewpoint (Lumsden et al., 2010, Kift et al., 2010).
The research this paper is based on collects substantial data about those who are deemed ‘non-traditional’ learners and investigates the similarities and differences in their student experience when compared to the ‘generic’ student population. The paper exposes the experiences of commuter students, mature students with families, and students with disabilities. The paper also argues that creating dividing lines alongside demographic characteristics for institutional purposes might be deemed inappropriate by students themselves whose identities are potentially not in line with the groups they were put in.
This paper builds on the data collected in the first year of study and thus offers a potential model of initial transitions, accounting for the multiplicity of these and their change over time. With respect to different aspects of transition, the paper tries to model the interplay of the academic and the social aspects and how they are both viewed from the angle of becoming independent. The paper also points to the differences in experience of the diverse student groups in the five faculties of the University with special attention to age, socio-economic background, class, ethnicity, prior schooling and employment status.
BIS. 2011. Higher Education: students at the heart of the system. White Paper. London, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. BRYMAN, A. 2008. Social Research Methods, Oxford, Oxford University Press. DEARDEN, L., FITZSIMONS, E., WYNESS, G. 2011. The Impact of Tuition Fees and Support on University Participation in the UK (Online). London: CEE Discussion Papers, LSE. Available at: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/ceedps/ceedp126.pdf [Accessed 20/01/2014]. GORARD, S. & TAYLOR, C. 2004. Combining methods in educational and social research, London, Open University Press. GORARD, S. 2013. Research Design. Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences London, SAGE. HEFCE. 2012. POLAR – Participation of Local Areas [Online]. Bristol: HEFCE. Available at: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/wp/ourresearch/polar/ [Accessed 20/01/2014]. ICOF. 2013a Analysis of UCAS acceptances for 2012/2013 admissions. Independent Commission on Fees. Independent Commission on Fees [Online]. Available at: http://www.independentcommissionfees.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Independent-Commission-on-Fees-April-2013-Report.pdf [Accessed 20/01/2014]. ICOF. 2013b Analysis of university applications for 2013/2014 admissions. Independent Commission on Fees [Online]. Available at: http://www.suttontrust.com/public/documents/icof-report-sep-2013.pdf [Accessed 20/01/2014]. KIFT, S., NELSON, K. & CLARKE, J. 2010. Transition pedagogy: A third generation approach to FYE - A case study of policy and practice for the higher education sector. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1, 1-20. LUMSDEN, E., MCBRYDE-WILDING, H. & ROSE, H. 2010. Collaborative practice in enhancing the first year student experience in Higher Education. Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education, 2, 12-24. RUSPINI, E. 2002. Introduction to longitudinal research, London; New York, Routledge. SINGER, J. D. 2003. Applied longitudinal data analysis: modeling change and event occurrence, New York; Oxford, Oxford University Press.
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