An Evaluation of a Scottish Higher Education ‘Student Transitions’ Enhancement Theme: Stakeholders’ Perceptions and Recommendations for Future Activities

Ashley Dennis (Lead / Corresponding author), Lisi Gordon, Stella Howden, Divya Jindal-Snape

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The Quality Assurance Agency Enhancement Themes identify specific development themes to enhance the student learning experience in Scottish higher education (HE). This evaluation explored the second year of the ‘Student Transitions’ theme through the questions: How do stakeholders perceive the impact of the ‘Student Transitions’ work and, what are the facilitators and barriers to the successful development of projects? Data were collected during two overlapping phases. In Phase 1, 30 individuals, with national or institutional leadership roles associated with the current Enhancement Theme participated in semi-structured telephone interviews. In Phase 2, 43 online questionnaires were completed by institutionally nominated individuals. Professional, support and academic staff, and student representatives from all 19 Scottish Universities participated. Data were analyzed using a thematic framework approach and descriptive statistics. Themes developed were: perceived impact; facilitators and barriers, such as support, engagement and sustainability. These themes were explored across institutions and sector wide. Participants felt ‘Student Transitions’ work was fundamental for Universities. Participants considered that Theme work had enhanced reflection on, and engagement with transition issues. Capturing direct impact was challenging for participants and it was proposed that it may take several years to evidence the outcomes of the work at the level of student experience. Broadly, participants reported that the sector was supportive and collaborative where ideas and resources for the ‘Student Transitions’ work had been openly shared. Challenges to advancing Enhancement Theme activities include limited time and other agendas competing for limited resources e.g. the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The findings highlight the complexity of integrating the Theme within institutions and broadly across the sector. Key recommendations and lessons learned surround 1) defining and measuring impact; 2) enhancing engagement; 3) and Theme integration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • institutional evaluation
  • student transitions
  • student involvement
  • Quality Assurance Agency
  • Enhancement Themes


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