The work of the First Year Enhancement Theme began in 2005. It focused on the nature and purposes of the students first year in higher education and how we can engage and empower students in their learning.


A key question asked, was 'What should students get out of their first year in higher education?'


Project strands


There were three main strands of work related to the First Year:

  • Institutional engagement focusing on their own approach to issues in the first year
  • six commissioned and two sector-wide studies on key aspects and views of the first year
  • regular sector-level events with a range of international experts.

We published a Theme overview report and a range of commissioned and sector wide reports.

Overview report


Overview of the First Year Enhancement Theme 2006-2008

Publication Date: 09 Feb 2009

This publication details the aims, achievements and outcomes of The First Year Experience Enhancement Theme that ran during 2006-2008.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 181 KB

Commissioned reports


Curriculum Design for first year 

Publication Date: 17 Jul 2008

This publication outlines the work and outcomes of a practice-focused development project aimed to investigate the relationship between curriculum design and student engagement and empowerment. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 352 KB

Introducing scholarship skills: Academic writing 

Publication Date: 10 Sep 2008

This publication report is a review of the literature related to the definition of scholarship and considers approaches taken to help first-year students to identify their strengths in terms of writing. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 232 KB

Peer support in the first year

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2008

This publication explores examples of horizontal peer support, where students within the same year group support each other, and vertical peer support, where more senior students support first-year students. The report presents recommendations for HEI's and provides nine case studies examples of peer support. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 312 KB

Personal development planning in the first year

Publication Date: 13 Aug 2008

This publication presents the outcomes of the practice-focused development project that considered student engagement and empowerment in the first year in relation to PDP. Its objective was to set out ways in which Scottish higher education institutions and their staff might change and enhance their practice. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 295 KB

Personalisation of the first year

Publication Date: 04 Mar 2008

This publication examines the policy background of personalisation and explores the concept of personalisation as understood by a range of practitioners. It includes six case studies that illustrate initiatives that have been designed to personalise the first year student experience at different UK higher education institutions. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 468 KB

Transforming assessment and feedback: Enhancing integration and empowerment

Publication Date: 11 Feb 2009

This publication provides practical recommendations for policy-makers, senior managers and teachers on how to implement institutional change in assessment and feedback practices. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 304 KB

Transition to and during first year

Publication Date: 11 Mar 2008

This publication draws on examples of effective and interesting practice within the Scottish, UK-wide and international HE sector to illustrate ways in which the challenges of transition can be addressed. This report makes clear recommendations for ways in which support for transition to HE can be enhanced in order to facilitate student engagement and empowerment in the first year.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 477 KB

Sector-wide reports


The nature and purposes of first year

Publication Date: 08 Apr 2008

This publication contains details of the sector-wide discussion on the nature and purposes of the first year’, is an overview document, produced as part of the First Year Experience Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 253 KB

Sharing and reflecting on international experiences and initiatives

Publication Date: 19 Aug 2008

The purpose of this publication is to focus on a small selection of findings that institutions, practitioners, policymakers and students could use reflectively. The work draws on both the outcomes of the Enhancement Theme and experiences and initiatives from other HE sectors and institutions beyond Scotland. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 174 KB

Student expectations, experiences and reflections on first year

Publication Date: 01 Jul 2009

This paper is a sector-wide investigation into aspects of the first year of higher education in Scotland. It summarises a wide range of discussions held with students centred on their expectations and experiences of the first year and includes their response to the terms 'engagement' and ‘empowerment'. This work was published as part of the First Year Enhancement Theme.

Document Details
Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 477 KB