Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, Third International Conference on Higher Education Advances

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“Walking a tight rope”- a risky narrative of transition to University
Pauline Suzanne Prevett

Last modified: 08-06-2017


The study of the transition of young people to university necessarily confronts the semi-dependency of the lives of contemporary youth: on the one hand they remain largely economically dependent and on the other they are becoming socially independent.  We therefore seek to illuminate engagement with learning as situated in the midst of semi-dependency typical of adolescence, at a time in the life-cycle when typically young people experience a strong “pull” to socialise with peers, but have not yet become fully economically and socially adult. The paper examines the consequences of this contradiction on students’ transition to university, from the subjective experience of students as they transition to university. We suggest disengagement and even drop out from studies can arise from a contradiction between the students’ social and study (economic) domains. The dependency is not only economic, but is culturally mediated and may therefore be experienced by some students in more acute forms. Cultural aspirations and family expectations and ties can provide the impetus to succeed and so overcome the emotional challenges encountered, and these ties may help them walk a tight rope to success. Finally, we explore the consequences for policy and practice.

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