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Social Work: Research


From FE to HE Study: Ten Years On

Professor Viviene Cree, Dr Hazel Christie and Emerita Professor Lynn Tett

We recently completed a follow-up study, 'From FE to HE: Ten Years On', exploring what happened to our 2004/2005 cohort of FE entrants after they left university. We presented at a CREID widening access seminar in December 2015, and four journal papers have now been published. These are listed below.

The follow-up study was funded by an Innovation Initiative Grant from the University of Edinburgh.

From FE to HE: the original study

This longitudinal study examined the experiences of 45 students who began their degrees in the College of Humanities and Social Science in 2004 and 2005 with HNC and HND qualifications undertaken at FE colleges in Scotland. Qualitative and quantitive data were gathered for 4 years of the students' degree programmes and a year beyond, using semi-structured face-to-face/telephone interviews and self-completed questionnaires adapted from the ETL programme*. The study received a small amount of internal university funding to pay for interviews, many of which were conducted by trained PhD students working alongside the project team members. Seven journal papers were published from the study; an additional paper set the context from the shift in admissions policy at Edinburgh University.

The project was led by Viv Cree, along with Lyn Tett, Velda McCune, Hazel Christie and Jenny Hounsell.

Follow us on Twitter twitter@VivCree and @iad4learnteach

The interviewers were: Viv Cree, Jenny Hounsell, Sue Kelly, Sue Milne, Irene Rafanell and Dina Sidhva.


The original study found that for the students who came to study degrees in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences with HN qualifications, the transition to university was not an easy one. Nevertheless, they fared no better and no worse than those with more conventional entry qualifications (Highers and A-levels) in terms of their academic performance overall once they were on course. This confirmed the view that widening participation initiatives do not take away from the academic potential of the university; on the contrary, the HN students were found to be making a real contribution to the university in ways that were not restricted to their academic achievements, including through representative activities such as Staff-Student Liaison. The study provided useful information at a more general level about students' experiences of assessment, support and learning in HE, offering lessons for the delivery of teaching and learning across the college.

The follow-up study uncovered the key role that relationships play in student success - relationships with fellow learners and also with teaching and support staff.

For further information on the impact of changes to admissions policy in 2004, see Cree et al (2006) - full reference below - and more recent research, Croxford et al (2014)

If you are unable to access any of the papers below and wish a copy, please email


Tett, L., Cree, V.E., Mullins, E. and Christie, H. (2017). ‘Narratives of care amongst undergraduate students’, Pastoral Care in Education, 35(3): 166-178. DOI: 10.1080/02643944.2017.1363813

Christie, H., Cree, V.E., Mullins, E. and Tett, L. (2017). ‘”University opened up so many doors for me”: the personal and professional development of graduates from non-traditional backgrounds’, Studies in Higher Education 1-11, Published online 8 March 2017, DOI 10.1080/03075079.2017.1294577

Tett, L., Cree, V.E. and Christie, H. (2017). ‘From further to higher education: transition as an on-going process’, Higher Education, 1-18 DOI 10.1007/s10734-016-0101-1

Cree, V.E., Tett, L., and Christie, H. (2016). ‘Relationships Matter: the Views of College Entrants to an Ancient Scottish University’, Scottish Educational Review, 48 (1): 89-100.

Christie, H., Tett, L., Cree, V.E., McCune, V. (2014). ‘‘It all just clicked’: a longitudinal perspective on transitions within University’, Studies in Higher Education, 1-19, Published online: 02 Sep 2014, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2014.942271.

Tett, L., Hounsell, J., Christie, H., Cree, V.E. and McCune, V. (2012). ‘Learning from feedback? ‘Non-traditional’ students’ experiences of assessment’, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 17(2) pp. 247-260.

McCune, V., Hounsell, J., Christie, H., Cree, V. and Tett, L.  (2010).  ‘Mature and Younger Students' Reasons for Making the Transition from Further Education into Higher Education’. Teaching in Higher Education 15 (6) pp. 691-702

Cree, V., Hounsell, J., Christie, H., McCune, V. and Tett, L. (2009). ‘From  Further Education to Higher Education: Social Work Students' Experiences of Transition to an Ancient, Research-Led University’. Social Work Education, 28 (8) pp. 887-901

Hounsell, J., Christie, H., Cree, V.E., McCune, V. and Tett, L. (2008). ‘Talking and sharing: the role of peer support and retention in Higher Education’, Journal of Access, Policy and Practice, 6 (1) pp. 35-51.

Christie, H., Tett, L., Cree, V.E., Hounsell, J. and McCune, V. (2008). ‘A real rollercoaster of confidence and emotions: learning to be a university student’, Studies in Higher Education, 33 (5)  pp. 567-581.

Christie, H., Cree, V., Hounsell, J., McCune, V. and Tett,. L. (2006). ‘From College to University: Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards’.  Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 11 (3), pp. 351-365.

Cree, V.E., Croxford, L., Halliwell, J., Iannelli, C., Kendall, L. and Winterstein, D. (2006). ‘Widening Participation at an Ancient Scottish University’, Scottish Affairs 56: 102-130.

* Economic and Social Research Council funded Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses Research Programme