‘Bridging the Gap’: The transition from Foundation to full Honours Degree

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‘Bridging the Gap’: The transition from Foundation to full Honours DegreeAbstractFor students who have experienced higher education (HE) in the further education (FE) sector, the transfer to an HE institution (HEI) to complete an honours degree can bring many challenges (Pike and Harrison 2010). The Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, at Ulster introduced a summer ‘Bridging Access’ pathway onto their final year degree programmes, for students from the Further Education sector who had successfully completed a Foundation Degree in Hospitality and Tourism related disciplines. The ‘foundation degree’ was launched by David Blunkett in 2000 with two major aims: ‘to widen participation for social inclusion and to increase participation for economic competitiveness’ (Foundation Degree Task Force, 2004: 2). Like many institutions Ulster’s challenge is how best to prepare these students to make the transition particularly when they are direct entrants and joining on-going cohorts of students who are already familiar with the HE environment (Knox 2005). The main purpose of Department’s ‘bridging’ is to ‘fast track’ direct entrant students onto final year programmes by preparing students for life at university, through helping them acquire the necessary key skills for coping with HE delivery and assessment regimes. The summer ‘bridging’ programme involves two 20 point core modules that students must complete in preparedness for their transition into final year. Yorke (2006) suggests that the challenge in programmes of this nature is a drive to improve student success. Success here means increasing or widening participation, achieving high levels of course completion and attaining a passport to employment with a positive attitude to lifelong learning. However, Boud et al (2001) suggest that the transition from school or college to an environment which is less structured and requires more self-direction, may be particularly challenging for some students and even more so in larger classes. This cohort of students has already made the move into FE, but the aim of this research is to understand their transition into HE. Biggs (2003) suggests that classrooms must cater for the diverse range of students all demanding the quality of teaching they believe they paid for and deserve. This study aims to investigate how ‘bridging’ students perform and the challenges that they encounter. Through monitoring the progress and experiences of this cohort of students, it will help to inform delivery, develop the teaching and improve assessment going forward for the bridging programme. Adcroft (2010) contends that motivations to learn are related to an individual’s expectations and perceptions of learning. This research will be qualitative in nature using questionnaires in addition to exploratory, in-depth, face to face interviews with the ‘bridging’ students throughout the duration of their studies. An interim questionnaire completed by the students reveals that they are apprehensive about what lies ahead of them, how they acclimatise to university life and the workload. Keywords: transition; direct entrants; foundation degrees; widening participation
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherCork Institute of Technology
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2014
EventTHRIC 2014 - Cork
Duration: 1 Apr 2014 → …


ConferenceTHRIC 2014
Period1/04/14 → …


  • Keywords: transition
  • direct entrants
  • foundation degrees
  • widening participation


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