Maunder, R., Mjali, S. and Cunliffe, M. (2010) Exploring transition in HE for first and second year undergraduate psychology students: the role of expectations, personal growth and social identity in shaping experiences. Paper presented to: 2nd Annual Aim Higher West Yorkshire Symposium: What is Transition?, University of Leeds, England, 16 July 2010.
The notion of transition in higher education has received much attention and as a result many institutions have invested resource into induction to try and ease students’ adaptation to university study. Inherent in this action is the assumption that students experience a notable change when starting university which may be difficult for them. We know little however about how students experience this process on an individual level. This paper therefore reports on an in-depth qualitative investigation of the experience of transition. Twelve first and second year psychology undergraduate students participated in either a focus group or semi-structured interview about their transition experiences. The data was collected by student researchers as part of an institutional bursary scheme. Thematic analysis of the data identified key themes around students’ expectations of university study; idealised notions of university life and ‘typical students’; the process and importance of establishing social relationships; perceptions of responsibility and control; and their personal journey of development and growth. Findings highlight how such detailed stories and accounts from individuals can inform our understanding of transition and facilitate appropriate institutional action