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Dimensions of conflict: reflections on the higher education experience from an access education perspective

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Given the widening participation agenda and associated enrolment targets, mature students who enter higher education by non-traditional pathways look set to become an increasingly prominent cohort who bring with them valuable skills, experiences and personal attributes that can and do enrich the learning environment. However, the Australian case study reported here indicates that those same attributes can present particular challenges for educators and for the students themselves, not least of which is the challenge inherent in the need for students to transform the procedural knowledge of their prior experience into the corresponding propositional form required by academic contexts. In relating the experiences of ‘Judy’, who had both successfully completed a comprehensive access programme and who began her undergraduate studies equipped with richly relevant life experience, this account provides evidence of some of these challenges, the potential for tension and conflict that they present, and the negative impact they can have on the first year higher education experience. Their effects can however be mitigated, we suggest, by: closer collaboration between support services and academic faculty; raising awareness in prospective lecturers and tutors; and ensuring, through training and professional development initiatives, that staff are adequately equipped to respond effectively and appropriately.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of South Australia, Australia

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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