It takes more than an interest in STEM: students’ experience of transition to study in STEM disciplines at university

Publication Name

Research Papers in Education


The journey to pursue and persist with a career in STEM is a complex process that begins at a young age, continues across secondary education and the end of school transition to university. Such decisions are influenced by a range of personal, social and environmental factors, highlighting the practical complexities of supporting young people in their transition to university. This paper explores the post-school transition of two students, one female and one male, with strong technological dispositions and aspirations to pursue careers in STEM fields. We focus on two STEM disciplines, Information Technology and Engineering, chosen by our participants. We employ the theory of practice (Bourdieu 1977) to analyse two students’ experience of transition. The findings from these case studies are not intended to be generalised. Rather the in-depth stories and theoretical case analysis provides a nuanced account of transition to study STEM disciplines. Importantly, the pathways into university were not equal for the participants. Class and gender intersected with university structures to enable and constrain students’ transition highlighting the significance of institutional supports within STEM disciplines to better support diverse students across the period of transition to university.

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