2012 Why ‘fun’ is not enough: exploring effective transition into HE

Catherine Arnold and Stella Jones-Devitt

Background: paper addresses two themes – Expectations and Engagement – drawing upon evidence from the Young Persons’ Attributes programme, a recent HWB initiative in collaboration with Local Authorities and regional NHS employers. This aimed to raise expectations and awareness of Level 3 young learners taking non-A Level routes into Higher Education (HE) or workplace. It draws upon work of Dyson and Kerr (2011) advocating that: initiatives which are able to engage with complex local dynamics have an important role to play in tackling links between education, disadvantage and place (p6). 

Key ideas: stakeholders agreed to pilot a project giving learners the opportunity to experience going the extra mile. This aligns with Watson’s assertions (2006) that the most productive form of widening participation gets learners to the matriculation starting point. The intention was to provide a lived experience that improved chances of a positive first year HE experience. By doing this programme, learners have gained: 

  • Experience of HE lectures and workshops.
  • Skills in writing a HE assignment and in receiving feedback. 
  • Understanding of the importance of professional practice in both workplace and HE.
  • Appreciation of the significance of effective communication with employers and HE Institutions. 

Intended outcomes: the experience raises several issues for exploration. Key factor relates to developing ‘critical beings’ advocated by Barnett (1997). We have some ideas to share, seeking to address: 

  • Are we preparing in-coming students with the right skills, attitudes and understandings, in order to have the best opportunities for their future?  
  • As colleges and schools are pressurised to meet targets for course pass rates, are they unable to use supposedly ‘riskier’ teaching methods which develop students’ thinking abilities; hence disadvantaging their students?
  • What can be done constructively to address these gaps?
  • How many of these issues should be the business of HE? 


Barnett, R. (1997) Higher Education: A Critical Business. Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press.

Dyson, A., & Kerr, K. 2011. Taking action locally: Schools developing area initiatives. Manchester: University of Manchester.

Watson, D. (2006) How to think about widening participation in UK higher education Bristol: HEFCE.

B2 – (EX36 and EX42) 11.50

Presentaion:  Why Fun is not enough  Diagram – Why Fun is not enough