An Enhanced Route from FE to HE Graduation?


  • Debbie Meharg Edinburgh Napier University
  • Ella Taylor-Smith Edinburgh Napier University
  • Alison Varey Edinburgh Napier University
  • Carole Mooney Edinburgh Napier University
  • Simone Dallas Edinburgh Napier University



transition, retention, attainment, college articulation, progression


This study explores student transitions from further (FE) to higher (HE) education through the Associate Student Project (ASP) and examines the effectiveness of this enhanced transition programme for direct entry students. Universities are expected to plan transitions for young people, ensuring courses support articulation and provide seamless progression (Scottish Government, 2014). The Access in Scotland Report (Hunter Blackburn, Kadar-Satat, Riddell, & Weedon, 2016) called for further research into retention strategies for disadvantaged students and the development of appropriate support methods. Through the ASP, Edinburgh Napier University has introduced targeted learning opportunities to enhance student progression and attainment, by addressing barriers to success in the different HE environment, creating opportunities for students to develop their confidence and the academic skills which will help them to succeed at university.

For some, the journey to university is seen as a ‘rite of passage’ (Giddens, 1991); others have no family history of university study and the journey from college to university is an unknown path. This research makes use of focus groups involving articulating students, both before and after transitions from college into adjacent degree courses, to examine their experience of the transition, combined with data from large scale surveys of all undergraduate students in the School of Computing and the associate students currently studying in college and, importantly, the university’s retention and attainment data.

Author Biographies

Debbie Meharg, Edinburgh Napier University

Debbie Meharg is a Senior Teaching Fellow based within the Centre for Computing Education Research and has led the ASP since its inception in 2013. Debbie worked to develop a model of interventions for transitional students, which has informed research through listening to the student voice and continuous evaluation.

Ella Taylor-Smith, Edinburgh Napier University

Dr Ella Taylor-Smith has 15 years of research experience, within Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Computing. Within the Centre for Social Informatics, Ella has been investigating the role of internet technologies in democracy (eParticipation). Within the Centre for Computing Education Research, Ella studies work-based learning and transitions into university.

Alison Varey, Edinburgh Napier University

Alison Varey is the Project Director for the Associate Student Project and the new Graduate Level Apprenticeship programmes in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. Her interests are in work-based learning and widening participation through the development of non-traditional routes in higher education.

Carole Mooney, Edinburgh Napier University

Carole Mooney has worked in the area of widening access in the FE and HE sectors for over 14 years. Based in the Widening Participation department at Edinburgh Napier University with a focus on articulation, Carole also works with colleagues in the School of Computing on the Associate Student Project.

Simone Dallas, Edinburgh Napier University

Simone Dallas works within the School Support Service as a Placement Coordinator with the aim of increasing student access to paid placement opportunities. She works within the School of Computing and supports colleagues leading the Associate Student Project at Edinburgh Napier University.


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