“I miss being spoon-fed”. A comparison of transition from school to university education from the perspective of undergraduate pharmacy students


  • Lezley-Anne Hanna School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Maurice Hall School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Peter Smyth School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Shona Daly School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast


Higher Education, Pharmacy, Qualitative, Questionnaire, Transition


Background: The transition from school to university can be challenging and there is increasing concern among academics that students are inadequately prepared for entry to university courses.

Aims: To investigate students’ views on transition from school to university education.

Method: A focus group was conducted with first-year students and analysed using thematic analysis. Students were invited to participate in an electronic questionnaire; responses were analysed via SPSS for Windows. The Mann– Whitney U test was utilised with p<0.05 set as significant.

Results: A response rate of 60% (88/147) was obtained for the questionnaire. Differences included staff-student interactions, learning methods, examination preparation and feedback provision. Many (85%) agreed that the main emphasis in school was on examination preparation; 29.6% considered this to be the case at university (z=-8.315; p<0.05). Most students (95.4%) considered the feedback they received at school helped improve performance; this decreased to 50% when asked about feedback at university (z=-8.326; p<0.05).

Conclusion: Students appear to be insufficiently prepared for the demands of higher education. They desire various aspects of their university educational experience to be more akin to that of school, including: a greater level of individual attention, increased access to teaching staff, and further clarification and transparency about the standard required to pass exams. Further work can now be done by academic staff to aid the transition and improve the learning experience. 

Author Biography

Lezley-Anne Hanna, School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast



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Research Article