Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Paper presented at the Higher Education in Transformation Conference, Dublin, 31st. May - 1st. April, 2015.


The transition from the social care practice environment to a third level academic institution for the first time as a mature age student can be much anticipated, exciting and stimulating but also fraught with feelings of self-doubt, unease and difficulty. These feelings override for many mature age students the realities of commencing undergraduate study. Before commencement, most mature age students neither give much thought to issues pertaining to transition, nor believe that such issues are relevant or likely to affect them. The presence of part-time, work-based undergraduate degree programmes in social care has continued to grow stronger in recent times. However, student satisfaction with the transition has never been systematically evaluated and the quality of this learning and the evidence base to support it has not been established. This study primarily investigates the experiences of mature, work-based social care students within a third level academic education setting in Ireland. This research aims to explore this transition and the complex difficulties, with the aim of potentially identifying the means of overcoming the challenges, specific to this group of learners. The results of this qualitative research will support academics in developing programmes which will enhance the overall quality of the pedagogical learning environment. This study will contribute to the identification of critical barriers and relationships in current work-based social care education delivery for transformative higher education in Ireland. It begins by presenting a discussion on the transition of mature students to 3rd level education, with particular focus on the work-based student. It continues by exploring the processes involved in reconciling the transition, leading to its success or failure. Professional standards and a strong academic identity are of special value in the area of academic preparation for contemporary social care practice. Establishing the academic identity of the student whilst maintaining the role of the professional in the workplace has remained a troublesome concept as practitioners seek to identify their own role.

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