Bridging the skills gap between school and university

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The University of East Anglia is collaborating with schoolteachers to help students bridge the gap between school and undergraduate-level education – and to address perennial concerns about standards.

Dr Harriet Jones, from the university’s School of Biological Sciences, is working with undergraduates and school teachers to improve study and essay-writing skills of students before they arrive at university.  The result was a new Pre-University Skills course.
The course, to be incorporated into sixth-form timetables, will give students the skills to help them work more effectively – and perform better - at A level and to facilitate the move to undergraduate studies.

“My experience of teaching first-year undergraduates made me realise that there was a real need to equip students with a whole range of skills, from note-taking to structuring an argument and recognising the difference between quoting and plagiarising,” said Dr Jones.

“These are able students from a wide variety of backgrounds who arrive with very good grades, but the A-level syllabus often makes it difficult for teachers to find the time to develop the range of necessary study skills.”  

Recent findings shows that these are concerns shared by academics across the UK and beyond.

The study skills course developed by Dr Jones includes classes in primary research, note-taking, revision skills, structured writing and scientific scholarship. It was piloted in the sixth forms of Wymondham High School and the City of Norwich School.

Victoria Musgrave is head teacher of Wymondham High School, where staff were also part of the course development team.

“Traditionally schools have provided opportunities for students to excel in specific subject areas and have sometimes overlooked the skills required to transfer those qualifications into the world of work or Higher Education,” she said. 

“We have seen a distinct improvement in our students’ work as a result of this course. The skills they have acquired will carry them forward into university life and beyond.”

The course is designed as a generic teaching resource that can be a valuable part of a General Studies programme. The first step in rolling it out regionally and nationally is to train teachers to teach the pre-university skills course. 

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