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19th International Conference on The First-Year Experience, Toronto, July 2006 Helen Corkill Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning , University of Luton, UK

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19th international conference on the first year experience toronto july 2006

19th International Conference on The First-Year Experience, Toronto, July 2006

Helen Corkill

Centre for Excellence in Teaching andLearning, University of Luton, UK


‘Semester 1 of Year 1 is critical to student ‘settling’, retention and success. How do we ensure that the transition from school / college / work to higher education study is managed successfully, given the additional challenges of working within a collaborative partnership?’

higher education in the uk government priorities from the 2003 white paper
Higher Education in the UK: Government priorities from the 2003 White Paper
  • Government aspiration of 50% of 18-30 year olds in HE by 2010
  • Widening Participation agenda
  • Undergraduates to pay up to £3,000 pa from September 2006
  • Concern with fair access to HE
  • Development of 2 year Foundation Degrees
  • Emphasis on:
    • Enhancement of teaching quality
    • Partnership and collaboration
    • Building networks to facilitate lifelong progression
    • Delivery of HE in an FE setting
the class of 2006
The class of 2006
  • 89% of those with 2+ ‘A’ levels progress to HE
  • 50% with equivalent vocational qualifications progress to HE
  • 55% new undergraduates – 21+
  • 45% new undergraduates part-time
  • 61% new undergraduates female
  • 50% of UK population in lower socio-economic groups - 28% HE population
university of luton august 1 st 1993 july 31 st 2006
University of Luton (August 1st 1993 – July 31st 2006)
  • University of Luton: 2 central University campuses, 4 local partner colleges (one on 6 sites), 4 UK based institutes, 6 nursing sites, several overseas partner institutions
  • ‘Widening Participation university’
  • Largest provider of Foundation Degrees in East of England
  • c 40% overseas students
university of bedfordshire august 1 st 2006
University of Bedfordshire(August 1st 2006 - )
  • University of Bedfordshire, 2 central campuses, 2 further campuses 20 miles away, 12 partner colleges covering central half of England, 4 UK based institutes, 6 nursing sites, several overseas partner institutions, new postgraduate medical school opening September 2006
  • Will become Widening Participation university
  • Largest provider of Foundation Degrees in East of England
  • Largest provider of undergraduate and postgraduate education qualifications in area
  • c 35 % overseas students
off campus partner institution students
Off-campus / partner institution students
  • Where are they?
  • What are they doing there?
  • Who are they?
  • Why?
  • Focus on non-traditional students:

first generation, mature, part-time, ethnic minority, with disabilities, from low participation neighbourhoods (European Social Fund Project: Retaining Non-traditional Students)

  • Mayhew,K, Deer, C & Dua M (2004)
maslow student staff identity
Maslow: student / staff identity
  • ‘Hierarchy of Needs’: belongingness

Maslow, AH (1987) Motivation and Personality 2nd edn (London: Longman)

  • ‘Becoming a student is aboutconstructing a new identity and a sense of belongingness’
  • ‘Finding a place between old and new social contexts’

Wilcox, P, Winn, S, Fyvie-Gauld ‘‘It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people’ : therole of social support in the first-year experience of higher education” (ILTHE Studies in Higher Education, Vol.30, No 6, December 2005, pp. 707-722)

first impressions last
First impressions last
  • Web information pre-entry: accurate? accessible? impression?
  • Literature: synchronous?
  • Education Champions: work with schools; colleges and people working
  • Open Days: parity between main campus and off campus students
  • Communication
  • Transition
  • Application processes: full-time, part-time
welcome to the big brother house
Welcome to the Big Brother House?


Partner Colleges

Barnfield College

The largest college in Bedfordshire, Barnfield operates higher education programmes at three Luton locations. All are served by public transport from the town centre, have on-site facilities and free parking for students. Subject to available space, two centres also have daycare nursery facilities.

W: www.barnfield.ac.ukT: +44 (0)1582 569 500

Dunstable College

The Union welcomes students from the University’s Partner Colleges

Students’ Union

The Union welcomes you as students from our Partner Colleges

and invites you to come along and join in!

You can join the clubs and attend all the events that

are organised by the University Students’ Union and a big

bonus of NUS membership is being able to take advantage of all

the discounts and services available nationally.

Make sure you get your NUS Card so you can make

the most of being a student

first experiences first confusions or a settling experience
First experiences: first confusions or a settling experience?
  • Application (x 2?)
  • Joining instructions (x2?)
  • ID numbers (x2?)
  • VLE/s (x2?)
  • Residence
  • Enrolment/s / registration/s (x2?)
  • Induction/s (x2?)
  • Freshers events: or not? (x2?)
  • Students Union/s: or not? (x2?)
  • First meetings with tutors (x2?)
  • First taught sessions (x2?)
joining instructions and registration
University of Luton

Information was received well in advance, was clear and helpful

Very straightforward for both information and registration

Registration OK

Registration quite simple

Very flexible when helping with last minute course change

No problems

Partner College

I did not receive any information

Information was incorrect and told me to turn up on the wrong day, wrong week and at the wrong place

Registration complicated – got sent from pillar to post


Took 6 months to get ID card

It was OK if you had all the right documentation, but people didn’t always read the list of what they had to bring with them

Joining instructions and registration
the development of the social network people make it for you
The development of the social network:‘people make it for you’*
  • ‘Equal emphasis needs to be placed on successful integration into the social world of the university as into the academic world’
  • ‘Making compatible friends is essential to retention... and students living arrangements are central to this process’
  • ‘Accommodation is also important for students who live with their parents and mature students…difficulties in having a social life at university’
  • ‘Meaningful membership of the academic and social worlds of the university’
  • ‘Whilst all aspects of the first-year experience were explored, social support emerged as a significant theme’

(Wilcox, P, Winn, S, Fyvie-Gauld “‘It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people’ : the role of social support in the first-year experience of higher education” Studies in Higher Education, Vol.30, No 6, December 2005, pp. 707-722)

* Year 1 BA(Hons) Psychology student, University of Luton, July 2006

the role of the student union in the initial weeks
University of Luton

Freshers Week was great!

Can’t wait for this year’s one

Am going to pretend I’m a fresher all over again

Students took new students all over Luton – really helpful

Wall to wall party

SU really great - have volunteered to help with new students this year

SU helped me with all sorts of things when I was settling in to the University and to life in England (Slovak student)

Partner College

Only went to Freshers Fair – was there anything else?

Do we have a Union?

Where is it?

Do we belong?

The SU was really helpful – Freshers Week was cool!

The SU really helped me to feel like a proper student

I am a mature student and too old for the SU

It made me feel very old

I’m not interested in anything like that

The role of the Student Union in the initial weeks
induction a good introduction to the university community
Induction: a good introduction to the university community?
  • ‘the induction crisis’ (Frame, 2001)
  • ‘Low progression rates and voluntary student withdrawal are increasingly a concern as participation rates in the tertiary sector rise. Models of departure stress the importance of transition mechanisms in obtaining the commitment which ensures persistence.’
  • ‘Induction is the first contact the undergraduates have with the university and forms their impressions’
  • ‘To succeed in their studies students must be motivated, accustomed to the university culture and feel part of the university community. Induction must effectively lead in’

Edward, N ‘First Impressions Last: an innovative approach to induction’ (ILTHE Studies in Higher Education, Vol.4, No 3, November 2003)

  • Luton: divide / on-campus / off-campus / token gestures?
University of Luton


Tutors pointed out the obvious

Waste of an afternoon

Made no difference if there or not

Could have been much better


I do remember the afternoon drinks in the department

Brilliant – had a party!

Fantastic – had fun day, barbeque, party, really set scene

Really established staff/student relations

Partner College

Induction at college was boring but set scene for the course

Learned to use referencing and to write a bibliography

Had lots of talks

Had two inductions – one at the University and one at College, I think – can’t remember

Joined the sports students for a fun day at the University – great!

What’s Induction?

Still waiting for the one at the University!

When’s it going to happen? (June)

perceptions university v college
Class sizes: large lecture groups

Pastoral care: poor

Contact with tutors: variable / poor

Transition into HE: smooth

Specialist subject facilities: good

Social life: good / excellent

Class sizes: small

Pastoral care: excellent / big selling point

Contact with tutors: excellent

Transition into HE: problematic

Specialist subject facilities: good

Social life: very variable / some non-existent

Perceptions: University v College
8 case studies on the first year experience in off campus locations
8 case studies on the first-year experience in off-campus locations
  • All students from similar subject disciplines
  • Campus 1 (B): midlands, 10 miles from partner university, university centre on site, 800+ HE students
  • Campus 2 (E): east of England, 10 miles from partner university, part of new-build HE/FE campus 2006, 1000+ HE students
  • Campus 3 (F): south-east England, I mile from partner university, 750+ HE students
  • Campus 4: (G): east of England, 30 miles from partner university, 100+ HE students on campus, part of new university 2006/7
  • Campus 5 (N): south of England, geographically far removed from Midlands-based partner university, 750+ HE students on campus
  • Campus 6 (S): north of England, in same town as partner university, 200+ HE students
  • Campus 7: (W): London, 1 mile from partner university, 300+ HE students, university centre on site
  • Campus 8: 1 ‘control’ group from Year 1 at University of Luton
support for students
University of Luton

Lecturers very supportive

Staff really supportive (apart from one)

University offers a good range of support and I have used financial support and special workshops

Good system of appointment booking to speak to tutors

Tutors offer informal and formal support sessions

Small seminar groups really helpful

Tutors always ready to help

staff not biased – will help everyone

Careers help really good

Partner College/s

Staff fantastic! Really supportive

Staff always there for you

Staff always have time for you

Staff always ready to listen

AM really good – gives everyone her mobile number and doesn’t mind if we phone at 10.00pm

Can always ask for help – only small group

Best thing about college and course is supportive staff

Difficult to get help with counselling

Guidance staff not very sure about HE finance problems

Support for students
retaining the students
Retaining the students…………
  • According to Tillman (2002), the following ‘personal’ factors influence retention:
    • “lack of preparation”;
    • “external commitments”;
    • “social isolation”;
    • “interaction with faculty”,
    • “financial need” and
    • “academic failure”.
  • Other key factors include:
    • selecting the ‘wrong course’ (Yorke 1999);
    • financial worries (Bennett 2003; McGivney 2003).
  • Factors influencing student retention can relate to both the social and cultural characteristics of the student, and the characteristics of the institution.
  • ….emphasis is shifting to acknowledge institutional issues, rather than simply focussing on the student (Tinto 1997)
on campus modules desirable or necessary
On-campus modules: desirable or necessary?

Case study groups (University of Luton 2005/6):

  • Group 1: Semester 1: PDP at University (art)
  • Group 2: Semester 1: one subject module at University (sports)
  • Group 3: Semester 2: one subject module at University (fashion)
  • Group 4: one day per week at University throughout year (2 days at college) (web-development)
  • Group 5: no formal contact with university throughout year (computing)
  • Group 6: no formal contact with university throughout year


  • Group 7: part-time course (care management)
  • Group 8: part-time course (early years senior practitioner)
first years at the university of luton
3 best things about Year 1

social life (100%)

meeting new / different people (79%)

independence (75%)

3 worst things about Year 1

accommodation issues (75%)

money problems (68%)

being away from family and friends at home (58%)

dealing with personal problems (51%)

First Years at the University of Luton
additional sources
Additional sources

Beaney, P ed (2006) Researching Foundation Degrees (London: fdf publications)

Charles, A (2006) Great Expectations (Luton: University of Luton)

Frame, P (2001) Managing the induction crisis: students can make adifference Student Induction in Practice (Birmingham: SEDA)

Hatt, S & Baxter, A (2003) From FE to HE: studies in transition: a comparison of students entering higher education with academic and vocationalqualifications Bristol: UWE Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning)

HELP CETL www.xxxxxxxxxxxx

Henderson, G (2006) Making Opportunity Work: Managing Student Transition through Higher Education (First European FYE Conference, University of Teeside, UK)

Mayhew, K Deer, C & Dua, M The move to mass higher education in the UK:many questions and some answers Oxford Review of Education Vol 30 no 1 (Oxford: OUP)

Wyatt, J ed (2006) Forward (Lichfield: fdf publications) www.fdf.ac.uk

contact details
Contact Details

Helen Corkill

Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

University of Luton*

Park Square




email: helen.corkill@luton.ac.uk

tel: +44 (0)1582 734111 x2646



* University of Bedfordshire from 01/08/2006