Posted on 10 May '22

Why Supporting Student Transition Really Matters

As a follow up to our Engaging postgraduates webinar, we asked Elliot Newstead, Head of UK Student Recruitment and Outreach at the University of Leicester, to share further insights about how universities can do more to support the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate, and why it’s important.

A lot has changed in the last two years. It’s now ok to go and get an Amazon delivery during a meeting, people ask ‘are you back in the office or still WFH?’ a lot more than they used to and I have a small child I didn’t have before.

What hasn’t changed is the fact students need support with the transition to university. No matter what level they’re entering, transition to the next step is tough and causes anxiety.

Whilst some universities may have had specific transition programmes prior to the pandemic (10 points to Gryffindor) and some have developed new programmes as a response to the challenges we’ve all faced, I think we should be proud enough as a sector to say we’re probably not quite there yet.

Having said that, the fact I’ve even been asked to write this blog shows there is a lot more focus now than there’s ever been – which is encouraging. At Leicester, we developed HeadStart and have learned a lot about what works and where the major headaches are in supporting transition ‘properly’ as a university.

What works?

#1 Take the time to listen and care

Sounds sensible, right? Now think about how your institution currently does this before your students arrive? Do you really listen and care about their anxieties and concerns?

#2 Approach transition holistically

It’s a big task but a coherent approach that brings together colleagues from across the university provides a much more seamless student experience.

#3 Linking undergraduate and postgraduate support

We found, whilst our activity was primarily aimed at UG students, sessions (particularly around academic skills) were of huge interest to the PG market, particularly those who’d been out of education for a while. Now think, how do your UG and PG staff work together?

Where are the headaches?

#1 It’s daunting

Universities are big, cumbersome, organisations. Gaining academic and professional service buy-in to an institutional project is tough.

Top tip: Coffee and cake are simple, effective tools to encourage buy-in!

#2 Engaging your audience

It’s not a major surprise that students who might require higher levels of support are, sometimes, the hardest to reach.

Top tip: Sometimes a simple phone call is all it takes. The insight you get can help shape your full programme of activity.

#3 Making it someone’s job

Does any university have a dedicated transition officer/team? A fairly quick skim of would suggest very few. Think about your resourcing, can you dedicate an individual or group of people to a specific project?

Top tip: Once you start, you can’t really stop. Be confident you can deliver before launching to the public.

I said in my last FAU blog (you can play spot the Frozen references if you wish) that we need to work together as a sector to talk and share more about postgraduate study in general. I’m going to reissue that call but specifically focus on transition. It’s now as important as conversion.

Let’s carry on the conversation.

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