Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


The transition of students into their first year of their undergraduate university studies is of great interest to higher education institutions, because of its relationship with the relative success of students, including the high attrition rates that can occur during this period of time, and the financial, personal and social costs associated with this attrition. Research into student transition has been conducted over many years and has predominantly followed one of two strands. The first strand investigates the approaches by universities to the support of students as they make this transition, and this research is frequently focused on programs to increase retention and progression rates and reduce attrition rates. The second strand of research into student transition investigates the lived experiences of the students. This approach to research is personcentred and describes states and patterns of experiences. Neither strand entirely addresses the question of how transition is negotiated by the students as they respond to the university’s initiatives and requirements; that is, as they engage with the university and their courses of studies.

This thesis looks at transition as a process of ‘becoming’; an iterative cycle of adaptation that occurs throughout a person’s life course and, in the context of transition into higher education, as students engage with their universities. This research is undertaken from a person-centred perspective using reflexivity as a lens through which to focus on student agency as students make choices and take actions in pursuit of their studies.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.