Navigating entry into higher education: The transition to independent learning and living.

Miles Thompson, Chris Pawson, Bethan Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Student transition into higher education can set the foundation for success at university. However, some students, perhaps in increasing numbers, find this transition difficult. This study explores contemporary students’ experiences when transitioning into Higher Education (HE) to gain an up to date picture of the multiple, potential sources of distress. Focus groups and interviews were held with a total of 10 participants. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. The data suggests that students find a number of things difficult about their transition into HE. Overall, our findings suggest that some find challenges adapting to living independently, while some are also unprepared for independent study at university. These challenges and feelings of lack of preparedness can be experienced as particularly distressing for students who can feel that even their early academic performances are directly tied to their future opportunities for both success at university and later life. One of the main sources of support students seem to have are their new social networks. However, even establishing these networks can become an additional challenge. In the discussion, we explore how the existing literature generally supports these findings. The discussion also considers both if and why the challenges of learning and living independently–a consistent and longstanding part of university life–appears to be causing more problems now than previously. We provisionally introduce a new concept and focus for work in this area SAILL (Struggles Around Independent Learning and Living) and consider whether such a focus might help us conceptualise future work in this area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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