University of Exeter

Transforming Transitions

Led by the University of Exeter, this project seeks to understand the transition experiences of BTEC students at university and to develop interventions to improve outcomes.

The purpose of the project is to develop evidence-based interventions to transform the transition of BTEC students into higher education and in this way to reduce differential educational outcomes.

This project aims to better understand and reduce the differential educational outcomes of BTEC students at selecting universities by:

  • conducting an investigation intervention to explore BTEC students' educational experiences across the FE/HE transition
  • designing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based interventions to address identified issues of transition. 

UCAS data indicates that selecting universities, such as those involved in this project, are less likely to recruit BTEC students than those with traditional qualifications. At the same time, recent research highlights differential outcomes for BTEC students as they progress through university.

In terms of final outcomes, A-level students are more likely to achieve a first class degree than vocational students, and students taking the BTEC Award and Diploma have a significantly lower probability of a first, or at least an upper second, than students taking an Applied A level. 

Evidence also suggests that BTEC students are more likely to drop out of university when compared with those on a traditional academic pathway, even when accounting for prior attainment. BTEC students in selecting universities are less likely to complete than those elsewhere; and the salary gap between BTEC students and traditional students, although narrowing, is significant and at its largest in selecting universities. 

Transforming Transitions is a collaborative project led by the University of Exeter and in partnership with:

  • University of Birmingham
  • Loughborough University
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Pearson Education
  • Exeter College
  • Leicester College
  • Hereford Sixth Form College
  • City and Islington College

Catalyst funding 

Total project funding £561,495
Project contact name Debra Myhill 
Project contact email [email protected]
Project contact telephone 01392 724767

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