This project is a collaborative investigation between three universities in South Australia, The University of AdelaideFlinders University and the University of South Australia. The project, which commenced in 2009, was originally funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The research is now overseen by the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) within the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. A number of resources that have been developed by the project team, including factsheets, a video and PowerPoint presentation are available on the Resources page. Follow these links for a copy of the presentations made during the February and May/June workshop tours.



2013 OLT Extension Grant

In 2013 members of the project team won an OLT Extension Grant to disseminate the findings. Follow this link to find out more about the dissemination workshops being held across Australia.

Teacher Support

The research project, A Collaborative Multi-faceted Approach to Address the Gaps Between Student Expectation and Experience at University, aims to understand the issue of school to university transition from many points of view including those of secondary school teachers. It is hoped that by providing a common forum for school teachers, university academics and professional staff we can all better understand the interaction between a student’s expectations, experiences, entrance scores and grades and better prepare students for transition. Developing working relationships between universities and high schools is vitally important for this process and the current project team of Ben McCann, Russell Brinkworth, Karen Burke da Silva, Edward Palmer, Ann Luzeckyj and Sharron King would like to thank all of those involved in the surveys.


  • Statistics show that of all students entering Australian universities one-third fail to graduate and of those students who withdraw from their programs over half withdraw in their first year.
  • Students preparing for tertiary study may do so individually or via school, government and university initiatives. Many students, however, still experience an early ‘reality shock’ during their first semester rather than a smooth transition to university.
  • The mismatch between students’ expectations and experiences has ramifications for their learning, satisfaction, retention and ultimately, their wellbeing.
  • The Student and Staff Expectations and Experiences project aims to explore what creates this gap and address how it can be minimised.
  • By gathering the opinions of students, school teachers and lecturers of first year students, we are aiming to explore all points of view to ensure a comprehensive investigation.
  • The importance of the first year student experience has been highlighted by Professor Pascale Quester, Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Vice-President (Academic), The University of Adelaide   “Universities are very different to schools or other environments our students may have come from. As education providers, it is our responsibility to ensure that the transition to university is as smooth as possible, enabling each student to adapt to his or her new learning environment. A positive experience is the best foundation for a productive period of study and we are aware of the critical importance of the first few months at uni in providing a foundation for what we hope will be lifelong learning. To this end, early diagnostic and intervention is the best approach and we strive to assist each and every one of our students so they can achieve the learning outcomes and develop the graduate attributes associated with their program of choice.”

What was done

Two 76 question surveys were designed and presented to the students of three Australian universities. One survey was provided to students prior to commencing University and was designed to measure student expectations. The second survey, of equal length and similar construction was provided to students at several times throughout the year and was intended to measure the actual student experience.

The survey was administered to students in 2010 (one for commencing students and two for continuing students), 2011 (one for commencing students and the other for continuing students) and 2012 (commencing students). Student responses were matched to learning outcomes, as measured by grade point average.We surveyed senior secondary-school teachers to gain an understanding of both their expectations of students and what students will face at university.

We surveyed University lecturers, tutors and practical demonstrators of new university students to obtain their expectations of students.

These surveys provide a rich source of data and anecdotal information that help us to understand where the gaps are and what can be done to make the transition to university smoother. The data will be used in presentations at conferences and in journal articles published this year.

Want to know more?

Contact us to stay up-to-date with the progress of this research or if you have any further questions.


Support for this activity has been provided by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.
The views expressed in this activity do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. Ehssan Sakhaee


    I unfortunately missed the First Year Experience workshop that was held at University of Sydney on 11th February. I was wondering if there is a way to make up for it (is there a similar event in Sydney?)

    Many thanks!


  2. Paula Dalziel

    I am keen to read the findings from your survey and would like to know as soon as they are available. I work at Edge Hill University in Student Services, Developments and Projects. We are continually improving the transition events we facilitate and this data may highlight further areas for improvement.

    Thank you , Paula Dalziel.

  3. Ann

    Hi to all of you and thank you for your questions and comments. Clearly when visiting the site I have not scrolled far enough down to see comments in the past and apologies for the tardiness in replying. Basically – this website has all the up to date resources held on it for the moment and will be the place where information will be held. We are developing a short video based on some of our findings and will put the power point slides from the presentations here too. Feel free to contact me – my contact details are on the about us page. All the best, Ann

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