All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2008: Encouraging Student Engagement

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First year Learner Expectations in UK Education Programmes
Derek Young

Last modified: 2008-05-16


This paper presents results from a UK wide research project undertaken by the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Education (ESCalate). Building upon recent research on student retention (Young 2006, Yorke and Longden 2007), this research has collated sectoral data across the UK, providing a comprehensive data set from which large-scale trends and common issues have been identified.

The paper focuses on key issues highlighted by the research and looks at learner retention in relation to how learners not only understand and cope with academic demand but engage with supportive teaching and the creation of a stimulating learning experience. The research places particular emphasis on the degree by which initial expectations and aspirations are met by programmes of study and the learning environment. Presenting both an informed and rounded view, the research outcomes are positioned in relation to specific learner demographic groups such as age, gender, social background, part-time employment, previous higher education experience, and prior knowledge of programme and/or institution. In this way, the needs and concerns of differing learner groupings are highlighted and addressed.

The study group comprised 586 learners on teacher training programmes at 40 HEIs across the UK and therefore has the ability to:
o highlight the needs and concerns of differing groups of students;
o discuss resulting implications for academic and support practitioners;
o inform future enhancement.

A mixed method approach was used in which a cross-sectional survey elicited both quantitative and qualitative data from learners about themselves, their experiences and their study context. The survey covered a range of different aspects of the first year experience and elicited data from both pre- and post-1992 institutions. This approach recognises the inter-relationship between various elements of the student experience and provides the opportunity to explore potential implications of modifying different elements of the student experience.


learner expectation, retention, supportive teaching