The changing nature of the student cohort is a perennial area of discussion. With the recent upheavals caused by the pandemic, staff are realising that students are having to respond to a new range of challenges not experienced by previous cohorts. Amongst these challenges is an asynchronous transition to tertiary study, with some students who started their university studies as remote students due to campus closures now having to transition twice – once in becoming a tertiary student and once later to the campus environment.

Research on student engagement shows the university environment is a key aspect of successful engagement, underlining the importance of universities adapting their practices to support student transitions.  As Ryan Naylor has recently argued in this column, supporting successful transitions is something that universities must do proactively, as going back to the way we have always done things is not the answer.

In June 2022, a group of professional and academic staff from across Australia and New Zealand met online through the STARS Student Engagement Research Group Network to discuss good practice examples for supporting student engagement, especially for non-traditional students, students from a variety of under-served backgrounds and transitioning students at whatever stage.

Our discussions recognised that our understanding of “belonging” has had to change to suit the new learning environments. For some students, “belonging’” is being part of the on-campus environment, but that is not the new normal for many. Flexibility needs to become an equitable reality and relationships need to develop through  on-line as well as in-person networks. To do this well, higher education institutions need to adapt their policies, processes and strategies to be inclusive of all students, and not just focus on the on-campus, domestic, school leaver.

Our discussions show that there is an opportunity to look at both student engagement research and transitions pedagogy in a more integrated way to develop nuanced and personalised support for a broad range of students as they negotiate the challenges of studying in a (hopefully) post-pandemic era.

Dr Sarah Carr, DBA Programme Director, University of Otago Business School [email protected]


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education