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You are reading: Navigating change: a typology of student transition in higher education

Written by Professor Trevor Gale and Dr Stephen Parker


Student transition into higher education has increased in importance in recent times, with the growing trend in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations towards universal higher education provision and the concomitant widening of participation to include previously under-represented groups. However, ‘transition’ as a concept is largely employed uncritically in the field. In making these transition assumptions explicit, this article argues that there are three distinct accounts in the research literature, which inevitably lead to different approaches to transition policy, research and practice in higher education. While the third – transition as ‘becoming’ – offers the most theoretically sophisticated and student-sympathetic account, it is the least prevalent and least well understood. The article further argues that future research in the field needs to foreground students’ lived realities and to broaden its theoretical and empirical base if students’ capabilities to navigate change are to be fully understood and resourced.

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Gale, T. and Parker, S. (2012). ‘Navigating change: a typology of student transition in higher education.’ Studies in Higher Education, p.1-20. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2012.721351
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