The Academies Project: Widening Access and Smoothing Transitions for Secondary School Pupils to University, College and Employment


  • Grace Farhat Queen Margaret University
  • Jennifer Bingham
  • Julie Caulfield
  • Sandra Grieve



Academies, smooth transition, widening access, university, employment


Previous research indicates that university students are not bridging the gap between school and university quickly or effectively enough. Therefore, there is a need to build a level of independence and foster a sense of empowerment prior to entering university, and create a supportive climate for successful learner development. Clear information and support on transition from school to employment could also be improved. Furthermore, there is a challenge for widening access and allowing people from different backgrounds to go into further/higher education. This paper will present the South East Scotland Academies Partnership (SESAP) as a successful model of a collaborative and pedagogical approach to the university pre-entry support stage and to employment. Academies students are S5 and S6 school pupils who attend classes at college and university while still at school. The Academies aim to widen access of young people residing in South East Scotland into Further and Higher education. They focus on preparing students for Higher Education while easing the transition between school and university, developing independent learning skills and building confidence. The project aspires to integrate students successfully into the academic and social aspects of university life; helps them gain a sense of belonging to a group and allows them to make a more informed choice about their selected course and institution. Academies also endeavour to provide students with the opportunity to experience work at their industry of choice and to present them with options and clear information to smooth the transition to employment. Results from a survey distributed to students showed that the Academies have been beneficial in developing their communication and independent learning skills, as well as their confidence. The latter aspects are considered important in enhancing transition.

Author Biographies

Grace Farhat, Queen Margaret University

Grace Farhat is the Food Science and Nutrition Academy Coordinator at Queen Margaret University. She has a PhD in Public Health Nutrition and has previously worked as a university lecturer in nutrition for many years. She is an Associate Fellow for the UK Higher Education Academy.

Jennifer Bingham

Jennifer Bingham works at Queen Margaret University and is the Hospitality and Tourism Academy Coordinator. Jennifer has experience working in the hospitality and events sectors including operating her own business and has worked for over 15 years in further and then higher education.

Julie Caulfield

Julie Caulfield is a Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, and Practice Education Tutor at Queen Margaret University (School of Health Sciences) as well as Academy Coordinator for the Health and Social Care Academy with SESAP (South East Scotland Academy Partnership). She is a HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

Sandra Grieve

Sandra Grieve joined Queen Margaret University in September 2004 predominantly teaching media relations at undergraduate level. Since 2012 she has worked in partnership with schools and colleges in South East Scotland to ensure consistent and coherent delivery of the Creative Industry Academy programmes across a variety of campuses.


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Original Research