Student transitions: continuous improvements to the student journey

Photo by Ross Sneddon, Unsplash, CC0

In this post, Nichola Kett (Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement) looks back at the University’s work on the student transitions-Enhancement Theme and highlights updated sector resources, whilst Lucy Evans (Deputy Secretary, Students) outlines the University’s planned work on continuous service improvement aligned to the student journey. This post forms part of the 20 Years of Enhancement theme.

Student transitions the Enhancement Theme – our work

Student transitions was the Enhancement Theme from 2014 to 2017 and explored the transitions of students into, through, and out of study at the University.

As outlined in the introductory post of this series, notable outputs from the University’s work on this Theme included:

  • Videos featuring international students reflecting on their experiences of culture shock;
  • A staff-facing leaflet produced by a PhD Intern outlining the key ingredients of successful student transitions;
  • Support for an annual Gearing Up for Transitions event;
  • Interactive student transitions map with good practice examples from across the University.

Reflecting back on the Student Transitions Enhancement Theme, staff and student engagement was extremely positive because the “umbrella” theme was universally relatable. We had 398 attendees across three ‘Gearing Up for Transitions’ events, funded nine projects across the Students’ Association and University, had nearly 2500 hits on web resources, and gathered over 130 case studies. The importance and individuality of students’ transitions become evident through our work and the resources produced aimed to help with this. We also saw an increase in collaborative working across the University, demonstrated in the programme for the third and final ‘Gearing Up for Transitions’ event in 2017. Feedback from these events was extremely positive in terms of impact. Of those 2017 attendees who completed the feedback survey:

  • 82% said they would consider implementing enhancements aimed at student transitions; and
  • 85% said they had implemented enhancements aimed at student transitions as a result of attending a previous year’s Gearing Up event.

Updated Student Transitions Resources

A wealth of resources was produced as part of the student transitions Enhancement Theme. To celebrate 20 Years of Enhancement, the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland has reviewed and updated the transition skills and strategies resources to reflect contemporary challenges and the importance of these skills in a tertiary learning environment.

The resources are free, ready-to-use, and customisable. They are designed to support students and the staff who support them. The resources are organised by skill including: academic resilience; critical self-reflection; self-belief; and time management. The resources can be accessed on the Enhancement Themes website: Transition skills and strategies – Student Transitions (

The student journey: continuous service improvement

You will have heard a great deal about the big transformational projects we are undertaking at the University to improve the experiences students have with us.

But what about those day-to-day annoyances we hear about from students (and staff)? It is often easy to overlook these or not focus on them as they sit in either the less-exciting or too difficult pile of all the things we need to work on.

Fixing some of these basics issues are important, and we do need to make a start on this. That’s why we have set up a continuous improvement activity of work, aligned to the student journey and reflecting the feedback from students and schools on priorities, so that we start to evolve a culture and practice of collaborative continuous improvement across the organisation.

This has been developed, and will be monitored by the Student Lifecycle Management Group that I chair, which includes representatives from each College and across services that support our students.

As a group we have agreed a set of initial priorities of areas to work on.

The priority areas are:

  1. On Boarding/ induction
  2. Academic planning – Timetabling
  3. Academic Planning – Course enrolments
  4. Academic Planning – Fees, bursaries, scholarships
  5. Sense of belonging
  6. Student Voice
  7. Communications

Each area will have a small task group looking at what we can action in the coming months or within a Semester/Year and/or require resource to be able to action as part of a longer term plan. This is not going to result in immediate resolution of all of the pain points but, by achieving small incremental improvements, we hope to demonstrate that working together in this way shows that we can and will improve.

We are still in the early stages of this work, and some groups are working to develop their initial plans. Some of your colleagues will have already been in touch about getting involved.

We will update with further details in due course. Thanks in advance for all the support.

Our next series at Teaching Matters (within Learning and Teaching Enhancement theme) will be on Student Voice, which is one of the priority areas listed. Stay tuned!

Nichola Kett

Nichola Kett is Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement Team in Academic Services, where she oversees the implementation and management of the quality framework and manages the quality assurance and enhancement team. Nichola also engages with and contributes to key University learning and teaching activities.

photograph of the authorLucy Evans

As Deputy Secretary, Students, Lucy plays a vital role in leading and influencing change across the University to enhance the student experience; leading a range of student-focused services within the University’s Secretary’s Group; and acting as a Deputy to the University Secretary. Lucy is an experienced higher education professional with over twenty years in the sector, including King’s College, London and the University of Reading. Most recently she spent ten years at the University of Surrey, as Faculty Registrar, and then undertaking two Director of Faculty Operations roles and was Chief Student Officer with executive responsibility for student experience. Lucy holds a BA (Hons) English Literature from the University of Sussex and a MA (Res) Children’s Literature from the University of Reading.

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