1. Introduction

2. Academic

3. Personal

4. Social

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Personal transitions

Group photo of people talking in a coffee shop

Students need to have positive interactions with peers and staff in order to successfully make the transition to University. This page provides guidance on supporting students’ personal development and wellbeing.

Starting University means a change in personal identity. Briggs, Clark and Hall argue that students have to create a new identity as a higher education learner in order to succeed. This process begins pre-arrival with imagining what being a university student is like, and continues through the early months of studying.

As well as the challenges of studying at University, students may also be dealing with changes and commitments in other areas of their life, e.g. moving home, friendships, family commitments, paid work, etc. Students’ academic lives cannot be separated from their broader experiences. We need to treat students as individuals and provide support that is relevant to their circumstances.

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How can you support students?

Group of students sat outsideConsider students’ wellbeing when designing your curriculum.

  • Encourage students to reflect on their pre-university experiences and the skills and knowledge they bring to university: this helps to value different types of experience and can help students feel more confident. You may find the Career’s Service resources on Skills, attributes and employability useful, inparticular the mySkills portfolio.
  • Be mindful of students’ workload.
  • The Department for Lifelong Learning include a short slot in class about wellbeing and self-care as part of their induction programme.

Two people talking in a coffee shopIn their first year, many students will not seek support outside of their academic department. Try to build a welcoming and inclusive departmental culture so that students are comfortable asking for help when they need it. Think carefully about the language and tone of communications with students; use plain English.

Three people sat talking around a tablePersonal tutors play a key role in supporting students through various transition points. We provide in-depth guidance on effective personal tutoring and specific suggestions on what to discuss in tutorials to support transition at various stages.

Two people sat talking informallyThink about how you can support students’ personal and professional development throughout their programme. The Careers Service provide a comprehensive guide to the student journey and how to support students at each stage of their course: Embedding Employability in the Curriculum.

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Signposting to other services

Make sure that you are aware of relevant support services and can direct students if needed. The online Supporting our students training for all staff provides up-to-date information on University services and how and when to signpost. Student Support Services provide information about key university services and processes, with templates for sharing this information with students. Students can find information on all support services at Signposting Our Support.
Encourage students to make the most of peer support opportunities such as the university student mentors scheme. Students can request a mentor any time up to the end of their first semester.

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Further information

Links and downloads



Further reading

Briggs, A.R.J., Clark, J. and Hall, I., (2012). Building bridges: understanding student transition to university. Quality in Higher Education [online]. 18(1), 3-21.
Leese, M., (2010). Bridging the gap: supporting student transitions into higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education [online]. 34(2), 239-251.
Advance HE: resources on Student Retention and Success

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