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Transitions and Induction

In Practice | Resources

Preparing students in advance for the academic environment and expectations of students at the University of Sheffield is done in a number of ways from recruitment events to pre-arrival support materials. For many students, however, the transition from school to university can still be overwhelming.

The Student Transitions and Support team of Student Services offers information and a host of activities at Intro Week to familiarise students with the University and the many opportunities and services available to them.

Student Services have also examined the broad and complex relationship students have with the University and its impact on the many transitions students must make during their studies, including academic, social and personal. As an ongoing process throughout the student's journey at TUOS, it is important to look at how we can support students throughout all aspects of transition, including intellectual, psychological and developmental, learning to learn and building a sense of belonging.

See also: A New Framework of Transition Categories (Student Services Transition Project, 2009).

In preparation for their academic endeavours, individual departmental induction programmes guide students through the sometimes complex academic journey. The gap between student expectations and the actual experience of studying at university can be significant. Students may be surprised by the demands of university life, including the volume of work, and may need help from you in a number of areas to ensure that they feel welcomed to the learning community. Part of your role is to explain the learning and teaching methods you will use and guide your students through the different types of academic activities they can expect.

It is worth introducing students to Our Commitment which outlines the rights and responsibilities of students and staff, and emphasises the partnership aspect of study.

To help students adapt to academic life as quickly as possible, some departments ask students to prepare an assignment or reading before arrival for induction week, while others include group tasks with more experienced students to help them get a sense of collaborative learning. Other departments, in addition to covering general academic issues in their welcome meetings, make the link between school and university topics in their discipline. (Having an understanding of the pre-University education of your students, e.g. A-level or International Baccalaureate, can help you shape the content of Level 1 modules).

Although much of the focus when talking about transitions and integration is on Level 1 students, it is important to bear in mind that students need support in academic transition in a number of ways, for example, if students are:

  • moving between levels;
  • new to the country;
  • returning to studies as a mature student;
  • moving from undergraduate to postgraduate studies.

It is also worth considering that students arrive at different times of the year, particularly at the postgraduate level. Having your induction material available online allows students to view it at different times of the academic year. This also allows students to visit the information again if they have been overwhelmed during induction activities.

Worth considering
Students need support in academic transition at various stages, not just when they are starting at University.

The type of support needed will vary depending on the student’s familiarity with the university environment. The Personal and Academic Support Tutor can, of course, provide much of the support to complement induction activities. However all staff have a role to play in ensuring that students’ academic concerns are addressed throughout their student journey, including sharing with students why you use certain methods and how assessment will work; making sure you have an awareness where possible of students’ academic backgrounds, including international students, students coming from the widening participation route, or a mature student access course; clarifying academic expectations in the move from one undergraduate level to the next or from undergraduate to postgraduate studies.


  • Example: Transitions Handbook

Leo Care, Ian Hicklin and Jen Langfield, School of Architecture

The School of Architecture has published a resource aimed at contextualising student transitions into and through architectural education at the School. Designed for prospective and current students, What is it like? at The University of Sheffield School of Architecture uses the experience, voices and views of current students, alumni and academic staff to outline what students can expect at the School and after they leave. Topics covered include the key principles that define the School, an introduction to studio culture, an outline of the skills students will develop and an overview of the types of learning they will experience.

  • Example: Induction session for returning Level 2 and 3 students

Dr Bob Johnson, Department of Archaeology

The Department of Archaeology offers an induction session for students returning for their second year and another session for students returning for their third, and final, year. These are also extended to include Erasmus students and Year Abroad students.

  • Example: Intro Week and Student Ambassadors

Dr Sandra Whiteside, Department of Human Communication Sciences

Over the past few years, the Department of Human Communication Sciences has transformed its Intro Week to include induction activities that more actively engage students in a series of tasks, e.g. using library resources with support from student ambassadors. This is based on student feedback which indicated that undergraduate students were still finding the transition to University very difficult.

Students are led in their activities by student ambassadors from their degree programmes. The induction activities (developed by Margaret Freeman, Director of Learning and Teaching for the Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health) allow new students to form networks with other students, while also engaging in an activity. The week culminates in students presenting their work/activities in a poster which is showcased to Human Communications staff and their new fellow students. Student Ambassadors also benefit as their participation contributes to their personal development and allows them to develop a sense of professionalism, while also promoting their employability.

  • Example: ‘Engineering Central’ - a SALT academic induction and transition site designed for and by students

The Engineering Student Ambassadors for L&T (SALTs) developed an academic induction and transition web site ‘Engineering Central’.

Michelle Johnson and Kevin Poppelwell, School of Health and Related Research

The School of Health and Related Research (SchARR) undertook a complete review of the sessions and information provided to students during Intro Week, taking into account central University provision and feedback from students following previous years’ sessions.

Natalka Shackley and Jonathan Benson, Faculty of Engineering

The Faculty of Engineering’s International Engineering Ambassadors help smooth the transition of prospective and current international engineering students to the University, Faculty and city. Ambassadors – all of whom are international students – provide support through campus tours, blogs and school talks.  For more information view the Faculty webpages created as a result of this project.


Bullet The University has set goals for successful student orientation and induction. This comprehensive checklist aimed at Heads of Departments offers a reminder on not only the practical levels of orientation and induction, but the academic considerations that can inform teaching.    The University will be updating this checklist in the coming year as part of the work it is doing to enhance the induction and transition of students. See Departmental Orientation Checklist.

Bullet Disability Transitions (Click on Session 13b to download).

Presentation by Bryan Coleman (Student Services) and Gayle McKay (Senate Award Fellow, Student Services) at the Learning and Teaching Conference, 2013.

Bullet From diversity to convergence: Introducing students to Higher Education (Click on Session 17 to download presentation and supporting documents). Recording available here (click on Session 17).

Presentation by Anna Sotiriadou and Professor Petros Kefalas (City College) at the Learning and Teaching Conference, 2013.

Bullet Supporting and Interlinking the different student transitions to enable success. A presentation by Michelle Morgan, Kingston University, at the Moving Beyond Induction - Understanding Transitions in Student Life conference, 15 June 2010, TUOS.

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