The First Year in Higher Education – Where to from here?

  • Karen Nelson University of the Sunshine Coast


Attention to the first year in higher education (FYHE) has been a priority for academic and professional educators for forty years or more.  In the Australasian higher education sectors, our practical, empirical and theoretical knowledge about the FYHE has developed steadily over two decades.  During this time, and in scholarly ways, we have collectively learnt and built on what has gone before.   The range of programs and practices that enhance the FYHE has gradually matured to where it is now, and there is a large body of evidence about what works.  We know that high-impact and sustainable FYHE programs and practices are best designed and enacted within curricula that engage, challenge and support first year learners.  Ideally, these programs arise from the collaborative efforts of discipline-based academic staff and specialist educators.  Not only have we come to understand what good practice in the FYHE looks like, but also that such good practice benefits all commencing students, irrespective of their backgrounds and preparedness for high education.  As a result, the cohorts for whom this attention to the FYHE has had critical importance now achieve outcomes equivalent to those of their peers for whom higher education was always an accessible and viable option.  Nevertheless, serious challenges remain, and the benefits foreshadowed by the promise of higher education are not enjoyed by many of the students who commence in our institutions. Although we know that a successful transition to higher education provides the foundation for what follows, more focused attention on the role played by institutions in engendering student success, not just in their first year, but throughout their enrolment, is required.  This keynote address plots the recent history of the Australasian FYHE and proposes, as a way forward, a broader concept that addresses student success and requires the same degree of scholarship and attention as has been dedicated to the FYHE.
Jul 29, 2014
How to Cite
NELSON, Karen. The First Year in Higher Education – Where to from here?. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 2, p. 1-20, july 2014. ISSN 1838-2959. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 aug. 2018. doi:


FYHE, first year experience, student engagement, maturity model, transition, retention, attrition, student success, STARS

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