Bridging the Gap: Transitions Research


In 2008, team members Ann Briggs, Jill Clark and Ian Hall were commissioned to conduct a piece of cross-faculty research into the area of transition, through the auspices of University Strategic Funds.

The project addressed the following criteria:
• Increased knowledge of the secondary and higher education environment and better knowledge of what student expectations are (e.g. study into pre-entry expectations; opportunities for Newcastle lecturers to meet secondary school teachers and share knowledge)
• Increased knowledge of both how school students learn and what they learn (curriculum).

Transition issues, with the resultant satisfaction and retention of students, are a current focus across the University; this project is designed to promote wider understanding of these issues and to enable strategies to address them. It enables synthesis and dissemination of what is already known, and identification of areas of current and potential future good practice.

Activities, methodology and research tools used

Phase 1
Knowledge Synthesis 1
To synthesise the knowledge already held about students in transition, and the impact of programmes to support them.
University-wide survey and a synthesis workshop
Tools used
Download the survey template
Download the survey database of results

A synthesis workshop was held at the University. Admission tutors and staff with liaison responsibilities for admission and induction attended, together with a partner from Northumberland Local Authority. The workshop disseminated the knowledge gained from the database, together with the work of PARTNERS.


Delegates then addressed the key questions and discussion points

Phase 2
Data Collection 1
To explore the views and experiences of pre-entry students of University: What engages/excites them about university entry?; current preferred modes of learning and teaching; experience of support for assessment processes; expectations of learning and teaching at University and expectations of the University experience.
Fieldwork visits to 4 Northumberland schools and 4 North East Further Education (FE) colleges. We conducted interviews with groups of school/college students and relevant staff members. Download details of our sample.
Tools used

Download the protocol document

Download the college/school student interview schedule

Download the college/school staff interview schedule

Download the Key Issues document
Phase 3
Data Collection 2
To expand on our synthesis phase and focus in on particular aspects of programmes and activities happening in the University and highlight what works well and areas of good practice.

From the initial survey of transition/induction experiences within Newcastle University, four Case Studies were chosen:
Newcastle University PARTNERS programme
RSC Teacher Fellowship in Chemistry
Speech and Language Sciences.

For the case studies, students were surveyed by questionnaire, and a small number were interviewed. Key members of staff were interviewed, and contributed to the final case study report. In the case of Speech and Language Sciences, a more detailed survey was carried out, at the request of SLS.

Tools used

Download the student survey template

Download the case study leader interview schedule

Download the University student interview schedule


Download the Key Issues document

Download the PARTNERS Case Study report

Download the VETNET LLN North East Case Study report

Download the RSC Teacher Fellowship Case Study report

Download the Speech & Language Sciences Case Study report

Phase 4
Knowledge Synthesis 2
To disseminate research findings, share good practice and formulate recommendations.
The 'Paving the Way’ conference was used for dissemination and the presentation for the conference was based upon the project report. It posed critical questions about transition to student applicants and to school / college / university staff.
Tools used

Download the slides for 'What's the Journey?' presentation

Download the 'Reflecting on the Journey' worksheet


The day offered a framework for discussion and for the creation of artwork.


Download the 'What makes a difference?' report

Download the Recommendations

Download the complete final report