Supporting postgraduate coursework students through their time of transition

Anne-Maree Hays, Sue Sharp


The efficacy and success of enabling programs in transitioning students to undergraduate university study is well documented. There are many examples of first year undergraduate orientation and transition activities to help students understand higher education expectations and systems. However, while many universities may provide research and study skills to support students once postgraduate study has commenced, there is little evidence of programs that transition incoming Postgraduate Coursework (PGC) students. This paper reports on the implementation of a transition program tailored for Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) students at Edith Cowan University (ECU). Many in this student cohort are returning to study after significant time away from university and for many of them, to a new field of study – Education. Held in the induction week of the first semester, the Postgraduate Preparation (PGP) course, consisted of two full days. Developed in consultation with School of Education academics and conducted in a supportive university environment, the course aimed to assist PGC secondary education students to develop their new postgraduate identity, by building efficacy and confidence through the refreshment of academic and research skills and supporting the development of help-seeking behaviours that may contribute to a successful transition to postgraduate coursework. A survey to measure the effectiveness of the transition program indicated that students identified participation in the PGP course as beneficial to preparing them for their postgraduate coursework studies. An outcome of the findings was the development of a design model for short postgraduate transition programs based on the identified key areas of self, skills and support.


postgraduate coursework; student support; transition; confidence-building; learning community; study preparation

Full Text:



Beard, C., Clegg, S., & Smith, K. (2007). Acknowledging the affective in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 33(2), 235-252.

Bennett, P., & Turner, G. (2012). Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey. The Higher Education Academy. Retrieved 23 March 2018 from


Clegg, S., Bradley, S., & Smith, K. (2006). ‘I’ve had to swallow my pride’: Help seeking and self-esteem. Higher Education Research and Development, 25(2), 101-113. DOI: 10.1080/07294360600610354

Cluett, L.J., & Skene, J.A. (2006). Improving the postgraduate coursework student experience: Barriers and the role of the institution. In S. Aop (Ed.), AUQA Occasional Publications, Number 7 (Perth ed., Vol. 7, pp. 62-67). Melbourne: Australian Universities Quality Agency.

Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations. (2014). Postgraduate Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) 2014 survey. Council of Australian Postgraduate Association, South Melbourne. Retrieved 10 August 2017 from


Crane, L., Kinash, S., Bannatyne, A., Judd, M-M., Eckersley, B., Hamlin, G., Partridge, H., Richardson, S., Rolf, H., Udas, K., & Stark, A. (2016). Engaging postgraduate students and supporting higher education to enhance the 21st century student experience. Final report prepared for the Learning and Teaching Support Unit, Australian Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from

Cullity, M. (2006). Challenges in understanding and assisting mature-aged students who participate in alternate entry programs. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 46(2), 175-201.

Devlin, M. (2013). Bridging socio-cultural incongruity: Conceptualising the success of students from low socio-economic status backgrounds in Australian higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(6), 939-949. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2011.613991

Eckersley, B., Crane, L., Kinash, S., Bannatyne, A., Hamlin, G., Partridge, H., Richardson, S., Rolf, H., & Udas, K. (2016). National research on the postgraduate student experience: Case presentation on postgraduate student diversity (Volume 2 of 3). Learning and Teaching papers. Paper 144. Retrieved from

Gale, T., & Parker, S. (2014). Navigating change: A typology of student transition in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 39(5), 734-753.

Heussi, A. (2012). Postgraduate student perceptions of the transition into postgraduate study.

Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 1(3), 1-13. DOI: 10.7190/seej.v1i3.52

Hodges, B., Bedford, T., Hartley, J., Klinger, C., Murray, N., O’Rourke, J., & Schofield, N. (2013). Enabling retention: Processes and strategies for improving student retention in university-based enabling programs. Final Report. Sydney: Office for Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from


Jancey, J., & Burns, S. (2013). Institutional factors and the postgraduate students experience.

Quality Assurance in Education, 21(3), 311-322. DOI: 10.1108/QAE-Nov-2011-0069

Kift, S., Nelson, K., & Clarke, J. (2010). Transition pedagogy: A third generation approach to FYE – a case study of policy and practice for the higher education sector. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1(1), 1-20.

Krause, K. (2005). Serious thoughts about dropping out in first year: Trends, patterns and implications for higher education. Studies in Learning, Evaluation Innovation and Development, 2(3), 55-68.

Lane, J., & Sharp, S. (2014). Pathways to success: Evaluating the use of enabling pedagogies in a university transition course. GSTF International Journal on Education, 2(1), 66-73.

Lang, C. (n.d.). Addressing the transition needs of coursework post-graduate students. Retrieved 9 August 2017 from


O’Donnell, V.L., & Tobbell, J. (2007). The transition of adult students to higher education: Legitimate peripheral participation in a community of practice? Adult Education Quarterly, 57(4), 312 -328.

O’Donnell, V.L., Tobbell, J., Lawthom, R., & Zammit, M. (2009). Transition to postgraduate study: Practice, participation and the widening participation agenda. Active Learning in Higher Education, 10(1), 26-40. DOI: 10.1177/1469787408100193

Parkes, K.R. (1989). The performance and subsequent employment status of PGCE students: Academic and attitudinal predictors. British Educational Research Journal, 15(3), 231- 248.

Perin, D. (2011). Facilitating student learning through contextualization: A review of evidence.

Community College Review, 39(3), 268-295. DOI: 10.1177/0091552111416227

Pike, G.R., Kuh, G.D., & McCormick, A.C. (2011). An investigation of the contingent relationships between learning community participation and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 52, 300-322. DOI: 10.1007/s11162-010-9192-1

Sharp, S., O’Rourke, J., Lane, J., & Hays, A. (2014). Cohesion, coherence and connectedness: The 3C model for enabling-course design to support student transition to university. In Proceedings of International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education. Brisbane, Australia, 14-28.

Stagg, A., & Kimmins, L. (2014). First year in higher education (FYHE) and the coursework post-graduate student. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40, 142-151.

Symons, M. (2001). Starting a coursework postgraduate degree: The neglected transition [online]. University of Wollongong. Retrieved 9 August 2017 from

Tobbell, J., & O’Donnell, V.L. (2013). Transition to postgraduate study: Postgraduate ecological systems and identity. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 123-138.

Tobbell, J., O’Donnell, V., & Zammit, M. (2010). Exploring transition to postgraduate study: Shifting identities in interaction with communities, practice and participation. British Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 261-278. DOI: 10.1080/01411920902836360

West, A. (2012). Formative evaluation of the transition to postgraduate study for counselling and psychotherapy training: students’ perceptions of assignments and academic writing. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research: Linking Research with Practice, 12(2), 128-135.

Wozniak, H., Mahony, M.J., Lever, T., & Pizzica, J. (2009). Stepping through the orientation looking glass: A staged approach for postgraduate students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 221-234.

Yorke, M. (2004). Retention, persistence and success in on‐campus higher education, and their enhancement in open and distance learning. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 19(1), 19-32.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.





This journal is published on the lands of the Pambalong Clan of the Awabakal People.

ISSN 2653-245X