An Evaluation of a Scottish Higher Education ‘Student Transitions’ Enhancement Theme: Stakeholders’ Perceptions and Recommendations for Future Activities


  • Ashley Dennis University of Dundee
  • Lisi Gordon University of St Andrews
  • Stella Howden University of Dundee
  • Divya Jindal-Snape University of Dundee



institutional evaluation, student transitions, student involvement, Quality Assurance Agency, Enhancement Themes


The Quality Assurance Agency Enhancement Themes identify specific development themes to enhance the student learning experience in Scottish higher education (HE). This evaluation explored the second year of the ‘Student Transitions’ theme through the questions: How do stakeholders perceive the impact of the ‘Student Transitions’ work and, what are the facilitators and barriers to the successful development of projects? Data were collected during two overlapping phases. In Phase 1, 30 individuals, with national or institutional leadership roles associated with the current Enhancement Theme participated in semi-structured telephone interviews. In Phase 2, 43 online questionnaires were completed by institutionally nominated individuals. Professional, support and academic staff, and student representatives from all 19 Scottish Universities participated. Data were analysed using a thematic framework approach and descriptive statistics. Themes developed were: perceived impact; facilitators and barriers, such as support, engagement and sustainability. These themes were explored across institutions and sector wide. Participants felt ‘Student Transitions’ work was fundamental for Universities. Participants considered that Theme work had enhanced reflection on, and engagement with transition issues. Capturing direct impact was challenging for participants and it was proposed that it may take several years to evidence the outcomes of the work at the level of student experience. Broadly, participants reported that the sector was supportive and collaborative where ideas and resources for the ‘Student Transitions’ work had been openly shared. Challenges to advancing Enhancement Theme activities include limited time and other agendas competing for limited resources e.g. the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The findings highlight the complexity of integrating the Theme within institutions and broadly across the sector. Key recommendations and lessons learned surround 1) defining and measuring impact; 2) enhancing engagement; 3) and Theme integration.

Author Biographies

Ashley Dennis, University of Dundee

Ashley Dennis is a lecturer in medical education at the University of Dundee. With a background in both medical education and psychology, Ashley has been involved in a range of research and evaluation including examining cognitive processes in mental health as well as exploring Scottish medical education research priorities.

Lisi Gordon, University of St Andrews

Lisi Gordon is a teaching fellow in management at the University of St Andrews. Prior to joining the School of Management, Lisi was post-doctoral research fellow for the Scottish Medical Education Research Consortium. A qualified physiotherapist, Lisi has specialised in the study of medical trainees’ transitions and workplace research.

Stella Howden, University of Dundee

Stella Howden is a senior lecturer in medical education and Associate Dean for Quality and Academic Standards (School of Medicine) with a special interest in curriculum design, evaluation and varied approaches to quality enhancement.

Divya Jindal-Snape, University of Dundee

Divya Jindal-Snape is a professor of education, inclusion and life transitions. She has published extensively in the field of transitions including, Multi-dimensional transitions of international students to Higher Education (2016) and A-Z of Transitions (2016).


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