Transitioning to university: VET-entry students' accounts of assessment challenges and supports

Year: 2019

Author: Harris, Lois, Dargusch, Joanne, Vanderburg, Robert, Richardson, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

To widen participation in line with goals set out in the Bradley review (Bradley et al., 2008), Australian universities often allow prospective students direct entry into many degree programs based on their successful completion of advanced Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications. However, research highlights that the transition from VET education to university education creates challenges given the differences in how teaching, learning, and assessment are conducted in both educational systems (e.g., competency-based assessment in VET versus criteria-based assessment in higher education, Ambrose et al., 2013). Studies have found some students experience poorer retention and academic outcomes than peers entering via traditional pathways (e.g., Ellis, 2018). The goal of this paper is to identify challenges VET-entry students at one multi-campus university experienced relating to curriculum and assessment. In addition, the presentation will provide strategies the students reported as effective in supporting a successful transition from VET to university.

This paper reports data from a questionnaire administered to two cohorts (2018 and 2019 VET-entry students). Both cohorts were invited to participate via an email to their student account containing project details, ethics information, and the questionnaire link. This paper focuses on student responses to a series of fixed response and open-ended questions which asked them to identify initial challenges experienced in their first term of university. Specific areas addressed in the questionnaire are the types of assessment supports they accessed to help them understand and meet assessment expectations and their ideas for ways they could have been better supported to meet assessment expectations. Data indicate that while many students found understanding assessment requirements difficult, even more struggled to understand what quality work looked like. This finding indicates the need for more supports which help students unpack criteria and standards. Students also valued personalised support, suggesting that while generic resources may help, interaction opportunities are also needed.


Ambrose, I. M., Cunnington, C., Bonne, M., Chanock, K., Jardine, S., & Muller, J. (2013). “Like catching smoke”: Easing the transition from TAFE to university. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 7(2), 120-131.

Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nugent, H., & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australian Higher Education. Retrieved from Canberra: []

Ellis, C. (2018). The TAFE/VET Pathways Student Experience in Higher Education. In C. I. Agosti & E. Bernat (Eds.), University pathway programs: Local responses within a growing global trend (pp. 167-186). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.