Dogan, Selma

Dogan,  Selma
Start date:
October 2022
Research Topic:
Mature Undergraduate Transition to Welsh Universities: A Complex Realist Study of the Barriers
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Prof Malcolm Williams and Dr Charlotte Brookfield
Supervising school:
Ysgol y Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol,
Primary funding source:

This research project explores the transitional barriers for mature students (aged 21 and over) from Year 1 through to Year 2 in Welsh universities drawing on Complex Realism, an innovative methodology in its infancy.
The UK-wide attrition rates for mature students are reported to be increasingly high compared to students categorised as ‘traditional’ (Briggs et al. 2012; Gill 2021). HESA data, likewise, indicate that although an increasing number of mature undergraduates are participating in Welsh HE, the withdrawal rates for mature students remain noticeably high.
Much of research literature on transition is engaged with undergraduates’ experiences from a socio-economic perspective (Reay 2001; Yorke and Thomas 2003; Crozier et al. 2019; Busher and James 2020) and most of it explores the standard traditional entrant that is identified as younger than 21 years of age.
Research which explores mature students, particularly in Welsh universities is small-scale and under-conceptualised in terms of the transition experiences from Year 1 to Year 2. Not much is known about how mature students including migrants and refugees in a Welsh higher education context grapple with the current social, academic, financial, and cultural challenges.
As Sellar and Gale (2011, p. 116) note, our focus as researchers, should be expanded beyond the point of entry to the nature of the Higher Education experience to investigate and understand how we can strengthen capacities to cultivate social mobility and narrate student experiences. Evidence (Tinto 1987; Gorard et al. 2006; Briggs et al. 2012; Gale and Parker 2014; Wray 2015) shows that identifying the underlying mechanisms may help generate relevant support and retention strategies for mature students in the current pandemic-induced blended learning contexts.
Through the lenses of the students and Complex Realism, the methodology used in this research, this study delves into the probabilities of the antecedent conditions in student narratives to identify the potential barriers to transition in Welsh universities. The study aims to generate data in response to the following research questions:
What potential transitional barriers might mature students identify in relation to their undergraduate study from Year 1 through to Year 2 in Welsh Universities?
The sub-questions which ensue from the above main research question are:
a) Why are mature students returning to education in Wales? Why do they need to upskill or retrain? Why are increasingly higher numbers of mature students enrolling for full-time mode of study? Is it because mature students believe getting a degree guarantees a decent job in the fourth industrial revolution? (See Brown et al. 2022)
b) Why are the mature student drop-out rates high at Welsh universities alongside the increasing rates of enrolment?
c) Why are mature students concentrated at post-1992 universities (Merrill 2012; )?
d) What are the antecedent conditions in the students’ experiences of their transition from Year 1 to Year 2?
e) What processes are involved in the transition from previous education or work to university?
f) What is the relationship between antecedent conditions in the barriers and transition from Year 1 to Year 2?