Journal of Academic Language and Learning, Vol 7, No 2 (2013)

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“Like catching smoke”: Easing the transition from TAFE to university

Iris Mary Ambrose, Clare Cunnington, Marie Bonne, Kate Chanock, Sandra Jardine, Janet Muller


The development of pathways from Technical and Further Education (TAFE) into university courses is part of the effort to broaden access to higher education. From the literature on the difficulties and achievements of students who take these pathways, there is strong evidence that some, at least, need more initial support. The purposes and methods of study are different in each sector, and students often struggle with the transition. In particular, those whose TAFE studies earn them advanced placement into a degree course may be disadvantaged because of missing orientation, social immersion in a cohort, and the first semester’s induction into disciplinary cultures of enquiry. In view of this, Academic Language and Learning (ALL) staff at a large, multi-campus university researched the experience of regional students to discover what ALL could do to support them more effectively. Not all had difficulties, but many did; and their responses to a survey and focus groups pointed to a need for more targeted processes and resources, starting at TAFE and continuing through orientation and the first semester of their degree. This paper presents the students’ perspective on the transition from TAFE to university, and the initiatives with which ALL staff have responded.

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