Report calls for greater student support around credit transfers

Student studying

Students who need to switch universities mid-course for personal reasons need greater support within the sector to prevent them dropping out of their studies altogether, a new report led by the University of Sheffield has found.

The report released today (Friday 1 December 2017) examines student perceptions about mobility and credit transfer and calls for the Office for Students to approach its new duty on this issue using a student-focused perspective, with the view that higher education providers could better facilitate transfers when the need arises.

According to the study, students see mobility as a student welfare matter; if a student realises they may need to change not only a course but an institution – often due to personal circumstances – current support offered by universities across the sector is limited.

Student feedback claimed that better mobility can help a student move to a university more suited to their changed needs, rather than ‘dropping-out’ of HE altogether. Currently students fear transferring to another university will be difficult, will devalue their degree and make them look unreliable, with lecturers equally expressing concerns about the intellectual integrity of a degree ‘broken’ across locations.

This timely report offers practical recommendations about how universities can support students who need to relocate their place of study and will I hope spark a step change in how this option is presented to students.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor

The report makes several recommendations to better help students in need.

Recommendations include universities locating the issue of student mobility and credit transfer within student support, welfare, advice and guidance rather than treating it as a student recruitment activity, with independent and impartial advice services to help students identify when transfer to another provider is the right decision for them.

The study also recommended universities provide support networks and mentoring to facilitate a smooth transition. Greater transparency and clearly available information on university websites about the option of credit transfer should accompany this. In addition, the report states that when credit transfer may be suitable it should be made clear, including details of what disciplines or courses students may be able to transfer to and from. This will help students make informed choices about how and when to move, if the need arises and make clear to them any pre-requisites or prior learning.

The study also called for Access Agreements to support widening participation students to relocate if needed and be provided help with the financial implications related to fees, as well as more immediate personal costs such as for an unexpected or unplanned move, which could create barriers to fair participation and access.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield said: “The vast majority of students settle into university life and complete their studies. A small number will, for usually unforeseeable personal reasons, need to move location before they have completed their course. In those circumstances, rather than leaving their studies or starting again, the option of moving to a local higher education provider with credit already accumulated can allow a student to continue to realise their potential.

“The value of a university degree has been proven time and time again so helping students to achieve their university aims and to complete their studies, especially when life throws up unexpected events, presents challenges to universities and students. However, with goodwill, cooperation and a determination that the interests of the student are paramount, obstacles can be overcome and students can and do succeed.

“This timely report offers practical recommendations about how universities can support students who need to relocate their place of study and will I hope spark a step change in how this option is presented to students.”

Other key findings include:

  • Students do not see it as an opportunity to ‘trade-up’ or to move in HE as a ‘market’.
  • Students believe that there should be enabling support for student mobility as part of HE providers’ student welfare/wellbeing provision.
  • Students believe there is a need for clearer and more transparent processes, information, advice and guidance on student mobility in HE providers, and the sector as a whole. This would help students in need, and tackle any stigma associated with transferring.

Dr Tony Strike, University Secretary, said: “It’s important the Government, universities and sector bodies work together to make moving higher education provider frictionless for those who need to move and to change perceptions among students and employers so degrees awarded by accumulation of credits from different universities are not seen as of lesser value than a degree awarded by a single university.

“This report aims to begin challenging these perceptions and makes important recommendations to universities and the Government on how we can better meet the pastoral needs of students on this important issue.”

The report entitled Should I stay or should I go presents the findings and recommendations from a research project conducted by a consortium of seven higher education (HE) providers led by the University of Sheffield.

Download the full report (PDF, 2.67MB) 

Additional Information

The University of Sheffield
With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Contact

For further information please contact:

Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339
shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk