Betwixt spaces: student accounts of turning point experiences in the first-year transition

Mark Palmer, Paula O'Kane, Martin Owens

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    126 Citations (Scopus)


    `Not belonging' is becoming a prevalent theme within accounts of the first-year student experience at university. In this study the notion of not belonging is extended by assuming a more active role for the idea of liminality in a student's transition into the university environments of academic and student life. In doing so, the article suggests that the transition between one place (home) and another (university) can result in an `in-between-ness' - a betwixt space. Through an interpretative methodology, the study explores how students begin to move from this betwixt space into feeling like fully-fledged members of university life. It is concluded that there is a wide range of turning points associated with the students' betwixt transition, which shapes, alters or indeed accentuates the ways in which they make meaningful connections with university life. Moreover, transitional turning point experiences reveal a cast of characters and symbolic objects; capture contrasting motivations and evolving relationships; display multiple trajectories of interpersonal tensions and conflicts; highlight discontinuities as well as continuities; and together, simultaneously liberate and constrain the students' transition into university life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-54
    JournalStudies in Higher Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2009


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