Tackling the School-University Transition into STEM Higher Education

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M. Grove, S.L. Pugh
University of Birmingham, UK, University of Leeds, UK
Forum 2014 Helsinki
WG1 : Inspiring the young

Since 2005 there has been substantial university-led activity within the Science, Technology,

Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) community to increase and widen participation

amongst learners entering these disciplines within higher education. Higher

Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) initiatives such as Chemistry for our

Future, moremathsgrads and the National HE STEM Programme have focused upon

raising aspirations and providing equality of opportunities for learners from all backgrounds

to facilitate their progression into higher education STEM study. While these

programmes have undertaken significant activities within local schools and colleges, a

key focus for their work has been on addressing the issue of transition, that is students

making a successful adjustment from school/college to University-level study.

Within higher education, mathematics is known to be a barrier to progression within

a range of disciplines and its effect is particularly prevalent as students make this transition

to university study within the STEM disciplines of Physics, Mathematics, Engineering

and Chemistry. While there are many reasons for this, universities have needed

to implement a range of interventions within the first year of their programmes of study

to ensure students are not disadvantaged by their initial lack of mathematical ability and

fluency. Within this talk we discuss two such mechanisms that have been employed

successfully: mathematics support and peer support. We will draw upon our own work

and practice from across the sector, including the national sigma mathematics support

network, with a view to showcasing how universities can implement institutional-wide

measures to ensure learners can successfully adjust from school to university study. We

will also share ideas and learning as to how universities may successfully support students

prior to university entry using these approaches to encourage and inspire them to

study Physics.