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Drawing together the findings from a literature review, and student-led focus group work on staff perceptions, the project has confirmed the differences in learning and teaching experienced by college students transitioning to university. It has also confirmed that this is a major source of the ‘deficit model’ of the perceived shortcomings of college students that require to be remediated by universities upon these students joining an existing cohort.

However, the project has also considered that, given the diverse nature of the college student body, their varying educational experiences and the differing outcomes that these students can achieve, whether differences in the teaching models across the sector are justifiable and whether it is realistic or desirable to move towards a unified tertiary model. In both college and universities, a more nuanced and flexible approach which recognises learner differences may support student transitions more effectively but would be difficult to reproduce at scale.

This collaborative cluster was led by the City of Glasgow College, with Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier University as joint partners. Since the 2014-17 Student Transitions Enhancement Theme, a focus on activities to support student transition has continued across colleges and universities.

In this one-year project, drawing on the previous Theme and subsequent work, the cluster explored whether the expressed difference between the student experience of college and university learning and teaching is accurate and, if so, what changes can be made across the sector to support student success, student preparedness, confidence and attainment.

There are two reports from the project. One from student interns, who ran a series of focus groups to explore staff perceptions of transition. The report’s recommendations are on seven aspects of transition that could be managed more effectively to ease students moving between college and university.

A short report from the cluster leader draws together findings from a literature review of published papers (see peer-reviewed article), which identified the challenges faced by students transitioning from college to university and the students’ focus group work.

As colleges and universities seek greater alignment in a tertiary sector landscape, focusing on the transition between college and university continues to be important.


Mind the Gap? The Transition of College Students to University

Publication date: 19 Oct 2023

A Qualitative Analysis of the Transition from College to University

Publication date: 19 Oct 2023