Bridging the Gap – From Secondary Schools and other pathways to Higher Education Communicating & Collaborating; Transition Understandings, Innovations & Ideas

Focus: School to university transition and overlapping discussion on transition in general.

  • Perceived and actual transition issues from

i) Schools & Pre-university institutions  ii) Higher Education

  • Current initiatives addressing transition

i) in schools and other institutions    ii) in universities iii) collaboratively

  • Transition support – areas of strength/weakness
  • Future collaborative ideas to ‘bridge the gap’.

Moderator: Sally Kift

Panel Composition: 3 Secondary School Members & 2 Higher Education


  1. Mandy McConnell (Careers Adviser Barham High School NSW)
  2. Angela Di Sotto-Hames (Mathematics Teacher Bradford College. Adelaide)
  3. Doug Hughes (Careers Adviser Willyama High School Broken Hill NSW)

Higher Education:

  1. Dr Kathy Egea (Senior Lecturer UTS. FYE Coordinator)
  2. Dr Ann Luzeckyj (Senior Lecturer Flinders University. )


Sally to introduce each panel member & in turn they give a brief (3 minute) explanation of their main focus area

Kathy – first year experience strategies and building a community of academic and professional staff supporting first year students, curriculum and academic development.

Angela – student transition perceptions of the university teaching and learning environment, college/university collaborations

Doug – undergraduate student mentor and broadening aspirations and building transition to higher education for rural and remote secondary students.

Ann – expectations and experiences of high school to university students, first in   family students, rural and mature aged students. Resources and programs to support   transition.

Mandy – Tertiary access and rural and remote school to university transition.

Panel Topics:

  • What are the perceived transition issues from pre-university educational settings (Year 12, pathway programs, foundation studies)?
  • a focus on year 12 rural and remote students
  • additional perspectives surrounding rural students and other groups where relevant
  • What are the transition issues perceived from a higher education perspective?
  • What are the transition issues identified by university students
  • student interview data (all student groups)
  • other perspectives

Key Questions to be addressed by the Panel  

  • What is currently happening in schools/educational settings to prepare students for the transition to higher education?
  • school
  • prep school
  • foundation studies
  • What higher education academic, personal and social transition support initiatives are proving to be most effective?
  • curriculum, co-curriculum and academic development
  • advice and resources
  • How have students responded to these initiatives
  • schools
  • prep schools & universities
  • universities

Key questions for discussion  

  • What strengths or weaknesses are identified in the process of specifically, school to university transition?
  • Is there a case for pathway providers and higher education institutions to collaboratively address the ‘summer holiday period’ (Dec-Jan) to provide support and transition for future students (especially rural and remote)?
  • What future collaborations could be implemented to help ‘bridge the gap’ for rural students, international students, equity students and others?

Panel Members Biographies:

Mandy McConnell: Careers Adviser Barham High School NSW

Mandy has been a Careers Adviser at Barham High School for over 20 years. Mandy leads the Riverina Careers Advisers Association and the Outback Riverina Careers Advisers Association.

In 2011 she was awarded the David Osborne Award for Excellence in Regional Career Development through the Career Education Association of Victoria.

In 2014, Mandy was commissioned by the NSW DEC to pursue a Study Project on tertiary access, equity and transition issues for rural and remote students. Her report “Tipping Points to Higher Education for Rural and Remote Students” included a recommendation to the NSW DEC to fund positions at the 2015 STARS Conference for rural and remote Careers Advisers.

Doug Hughes: Doug finished school in Sydney and studied Veterinary Science at Sydney University. After completing the BVSc and a 15month stint working in Parramatta he moved to Broken Hill in Far West NSW in 2007 to take up a position at the RSPCA clinic and shelter. During that time he discovered the privilege it was to mentor both undergraduate students and secondary school students who came to do work placements at the clinic. This led Doug to complete a BTeaching (secondary) part-time by distance over 3 years through Charles Sturt University, and begin working at Willyama High School in 2013. He is now the Careers Adviser and Biology teacher and has completed a Grad Certificate in Careers Education & Development through RMIT. Doug is married with 3 boys, the eldest of whom has just started kindergarten which is helping Doug understand transitions in Education from the other end of the spectrum!

Ann Luzeckyj is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education, First Year Undergraduate Teaching Advisor in the Centre for University Teaching at Flinders University. Ann provides support, resources and advice to staff who work with first year undergraduate students. She also undertakes research and has been involved in a number of grants related to aspects of first year teaching and learning including work on student transition to university. Ann’s other duties include supporting sessional teaching staff and coordinating the Flinders Foundations of University Teaching program.

Kathy Egea: Dr Kathy Egea is a senior lecturer with over 20 years experience in higher education and prior to this, 12 years as a high school maths/science teacher. As UTS FYE coordinator, she co-leads the FYE strategy, building a FYE community of academic and professional staff in supporting first year students, facilitate small grants and leads the faculty-based FYE academic coordinator team. She enthusiastically encourages teachers from high school, tafe colleges and other pathway institutes,  to join the FYE community and attend FYE forums to improve understandings in the transition of students from these pathways.

Angela Di Sotto-Hames has been a secondary school teacher for 12 years and a teacher in various other educational settings (TAFE, university, university preparation colleges) for a period of 5 years. She is currently a teacher at Bradford College in Adelaide, a foundation studies provider for university entrance. Angela is in the process of completing a Doctor of Education in the area of university transition. Her research includes interviewing first year university students during their transition period and a case study on a school to university preparation college in Adelaide.

Sally Kift is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at James Cook University and President of the Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows (ALTF). Prior to commencing at JCU in 2012, Sally was a Professor of Law at Queensland University of Technology, where she also served as Law Faculty Assistant Dean, Teaching & Learning (2001-2006) and QUT’s foundational Director, First Year Experience (2006-2007). Sally is a national Teaching Award winner (2003) and national Program Award winner (2007). She was awarded a Senior Fellowship by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) in 2006 to investigate the first year experience and is currently a Discipline Scholar in Law.