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Transition to university learning

An effective transition is one that results in each and every student:

  • feeling a sense of belonging within the University community;
  • understanding the academic values and expectations of University learning;
  • being equipped with the necessary academic skills in order to succeed in their studies.

Given that new students begin the transition from different starting points, with different experiences and expectations, transition support needs to be carefully designed in order to enable the full diversity of students to achieve these outcomes.

Transition is not a one-off activity, but rather a process that should be actively designed and facilitated across the whole first year of an undergraduate degree from the early days of accepting an offer to the University of Reading to reflecting on the results of first year exams.

The 'What Works?' project advice and guidance on scaffolding an effective transition; including six principles that can be used to plan and inform transition activities (Thomas, L., 2012, p9). These principles have particular relevance when considered in the context of diversity and inclusion.

Liz Thomas (2013, p18-19) has also created a list of reflective questions to prompt reflection on the effectiveness of transition arrangements.



Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: a summary of findings and recommendations from the What Works? Student Retention and Success Programme . York: Higher Education Academy, p. 9.

Thomas, L. (2013) What works? Facilitating an effective transition into higher education. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning , 14: 1. p4-24.


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