June 2023 - Awareness Raising Toolkit Ready!

You can now explore the Awareness Raising Toolkit we have created as a response to the question of: “Why do those teaching first-year students have a  special role to play?

Engaging with (some elements of) this Toolkit, can help academics who teach first-year undergraduate students become:
(1) aware of their special role in making HE inclusive  and accessible, also in their own context
(2) motivated to learn to support diverse students better in their transition to higher education.

The Toolkit also includes a section for faculty developers – those who might want ready-to-use/adapt resources to make others who teach first-year students more aware of their special role.

The toolkit is available in English, Spanish, French, and Slovenian.

Explore. Engage. Share. Let those who teach first-year students know. Discuss ideas you find in the Toolkit with colleagues at your institution. And see how this applies or what this means to you, your context and  your students!

May 2023

Six multiplier events were organised by the project in the month of May. 

Five of them focused on the “Why do those teaching first-year students have a special role to play?” Awareness Raising toolkit (Result 1), presenting it to academics and others who work on supporting diverse students in their transition to higher education.

One of the events targeted French-speaking participants, one Slovenian-speaking participants, the third one – Spanish-speaking participants and two more – English-speaking participants from different EHEA institutions. To reach an even broader audience, an additional session for French-speaking participants will be organised at the end of June 2023. Over 80 participants from outside the consortium attended the webinars linked to Result 1 held in May. They came from ten countries and represented over 30 different higher education institutions.

The sixth multiplier event focused on “Bridging the inter-sectoral communication gap” between higher education and pre-university sector. This was conducted in English and its two sessions brought together more than 20 participants from outside the START project consortium. These two sessions were in themselves an example of how the communication gap can be bridged, as they engaged in discussions participants of very diverse profiles: students, those preparing students to go to higher education and higher education actors (teachers, tutors, students, etc.).

In terms of the geographical scope, attendants across the six multiplier events came from the following countries: Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey.

All the events also attracted participants from within the consortium, highlighting the relevance of the project both to the institutions involved, and to the ‘wider world’ of all those striving to make higher education truly inclusive.

APRIL 2023

Dates for the end-of-year 1 Multiplier Events have been set. 6 webinars will be organised in May 2023 in order to share first project results with a wider audience:

– five to let academics teaching first-year students, faculty/educational/staff developers and university authorities know that the START project has created an Awareness Raising Toolkit for those teaching first-year undergraduate students and those who support academics teaching first-year students;

– one 2-part webinar will also support dissemination of work started in relation to the “Bridging the inter-sectoral communication gap” collection of good practices for bridging the communication gap between higher education and pre-university education sectors

To learn more about these free webinars and sign up, visit the Dissemination Events page.

March 2023

During the online meeting held in February it was decided that the partners would receive a Questionnaire in which they had to answer the questions with the objective of collecting examples of good practices in communication with pre-university actors. These actors vary from future students to those teaching/working with pre-university students, etc. The final goal of this activity is to gather all the good practices the partners have in this matter, share them with the rest of the group, and collect the most representative and revolutionary in order to present them in the Multiplier Event to be held in May.

This Questionnaire was to be sent before the 17th of March, as this was the day in which the group agreed to meet again in order to discuss the good practices and make the assessment of which were the ones selected to be presented in the Multiplier Event. Learning from each other’s practices is very relevant for the project because it helps build the big picture in which third level institutions find themselves in terms of communication with pre-university actors. It is the perfect way to understand the situation and decide which aspects need to be improved, which need to be reinforced and which need to be supported.

The online group meeting was a success. In it, the group members decided on the final structure of the Multiplier Event to be held in May. It will be divided into two different online sessions to take place on two different days of the same week. Each session will be focused on different aspects of the topic of inter-sectoral communication gap to achieve inclusive excellence in Higher Education. 

Session 1 (“Analysis of the current system: a critical examination”) will be held on Tuesday 16th of May, it is directed to universities, university students, secondary school teachers and counselors and aims to collect information about what the public considers to be lacking in the current system. Session 2 (“University good practices: which and how”) will take place on Friday the 19th of May, it is directed to universities and it aims to gather the different initiatives undertaken by universities in order to have a clear image of the current system and share good practices.

Furthermore, this online meeting served the group to gather together numerous initiatives taken by the universities they represent on the matter relevant to the project, to draft an invitation for the event, to discuss the main aspects of the organization of the D-day (the days in which the Multiplier Event will take place), and to finish the flyer – which can be seen together with this text.

Finally, it was agreed by the group that three additional meetings were to be scheduled in May, each of them with the objective of ending the organization of each of the three days of the Multiplier Event. The members of the group were still in contact during the rest of the month via email, where different doubts were discussed.

February 2023

Participating in START made me remember my feelings from the first year of study at university. I didn’t feel that anybody cared. With START we would like to show to nowadays students that we do care.

Barbara Modec

As a teacher of first- and third-year students, I soon realized a great difference between them. Since the beginning of my career, I have tried to help students in the transition to the university, but working in the START project has given me a deeper understanding of students’ problems, which has improved my communication with them. The problems of first-year teachers/students have been neglected by most of my colleagues who never meet first-year students. The results of the START project should convince them that teachers can play an important role in the transition from secondary school to university.

Saša Petriček

The first year of college can be a bit overwhelming, as it represents a major life change for most people. First-year students can suffer from homesickness, financial problems, social isolation, extremely poor time management, unmotivated members of group projects, and so on. Since I have been participating in the START project, I became familiar with the different backgrounds of students and the problems they face that can lead to dropping out. Therefore, it is important to address these types of problems by providing them with full support. It is especially important to clarify expectations for student learning and performance, for example, by explaining what is expected of them through descriptions, examples, and feedback on their work. Feedback should not only be critical, but also supportive and encouraging, which could help students adapt more quickly to the new environment.

Taja Klemen

I became interested in the project START, because I teach first-year students and tutor these students. I know that the transition from secondary school to university is an important turning point for them, and I think it is very important that we make this transition as easy as possible for them and not, perhaps out of negligence or ignorance, make it unnecessarily difficult. I thought I knew something about the difficulties that some first-year students have, but in my first focus group interview with students as part of the START project, I quickly realised that things that I take for granted are completely incomprehensible, hidden, and illogical from their perspective. I have therefore already adjusted the way I present the information and hope that the results of the project will convince as many as possible of those who teach first-year students that they can make a big difference by making small adjustments to help their students integrate successfully into university life and study.

Anton Meden

The transition from high school to university is a turning point for many young people, associated with various professional and personal challenges. In the START project, we strive to better understand the challenges that young people face and to develop a supportive environment that will best support young people in their transition to university.

Vesna Ferk Savec

The contemporary social and family circumstances of children growing up are changing rapidly and, together with school, are influencing the “otherness” – and our ignorance – of the knowledge, skills, and personal preferences with which young people enter university. Do we know them and do we take them seriously? In the START project, systematically learning about these changed assumptions will – I hope – enable us to remove unnecessary barriers to students’ successful entry and ensure the quality of their studies.

Janez Krek


In February 2023, information days were held at the University of Ljubljana where faculties informed secondary school students about the study programmes, they were interested in applying to. Prospective students were able to obtain information about studies and study programmes, and meet representatives of the faculties and academies, as well as upper-year students.

January 2023

On 16 January 2023 we were hosted by our Spanish colleagues at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid for our second START Transnational Project Meeting.  Having spent the interim weeks working collaboratively online to give shape and direction to each of the five strands of the ‘Awareness Raising Toolkit’, this was a much-needed opportunity for wider collaboration and critical feedback.  

 The experience of first year undergraduate students and their teachers is not generic across European third level institutions. There are significant systemic and disciplinary differences in relation to post-primary education and student transition, as well as cultural and linguistic nuances in relation to the wider purpose, and particular practice, of education.  While the literature review had already given us a broad foundation for the issues facing first year students and their university teachers, it was through dialogue with our project partners that we were able to fully explore this rich and diverse landscape.

 As we worked our way through each of the components of the ‘Awareness Raising Toolkit’ we found common ground amid this diversity, and we were able to consider the benefits as well as the challenges difference brings when considering our project aims to support European university teachers of first year students. 

 This clarity proved incredibly productive, and we had a busy three days of presentations, critical dialogue, activities and working groups.  Our host university, UPM, offered an open session to begin raising awareness of our project with their staff and to hear their experiences of teaching first year students, which gave us the opportunity to share our findings and further reflect on our toolkit.

 That so much can be achieved in such a short space of time is a credit to the drive, creativity and commitment of the project participants.  The online toolkit is in its final stages, and we are all looking forward to seeing it on our START website soon.

December 2022

Continuing with the START project and looking forward to the transnational meeting planned for January 2023 in Madrid (Spain), the team has been working on different topics and tasks. The focus is on the first result of the project, namely, the creation of an “Awareness Raising Toolkit”. This toolkit aims to help academics understand why students find transition to higher education challenging and why those teaching first-year students have a special role to play.

For this, five groups have been working on different aspects:

1.- Galaxies of challenges: aiming to develop tools that help to raise awareness of students’ challenges among academics teaching first-year students.

2.- Seriousness of challenges: making academics aware of the seriousness of these challenges.

3.- Awareness of THEIR students: focusing on academics’ own students and their specific challenges.

4.- Faculty developers: creating tools that help faculty developers design teaching actions and materials to help academics guide their students’ transition.

5.- Academics CAN: develop specific messages about academics’ capacity in this subject directed to faculty with different responsibilities in course teaching, course design, studies program design or to academic authorities.

The meeting in Madrid will give us the opportunity to share our results, find synergies and to discuss some of the working groups’ results with first-year students’ teachers at UPM in an open session.

This way, the next steps for the START project will be established!

November 2022

In the first stage of the project START, the team consulted several sources (research articles, national statistics reports and interviews, among others) to identify the main challenges students face during their first year in the HEI and the impact teachers can have guiding them during the transition. More than 200 quotes from the research literature were analysed to draft the nature of the 4 major challenges students face: academic engagement, university culture, personal and social. Currently, the team is working on the delimitation of each one of them and the interconnection of these categories.

The information collected also reported how academics can positively contribute to students’ transition. They can:

  • support the transition through providing explicit rules, creating a supportive environment, giving timely feedback, etc.
  • create a sense of belonging, promote resilience and engagement, build community, help navigate “unspoken” rules.
  • strongly influence students having direct contact with them, meaningful interactions, positive relationships, structured contact out of the class.

These results will be the framework of the results coming up on the START project.

Having presented our first literature review findings to first-year students’ teachers in Groningen has greatly encouraged the team on the importance of working on this topic.

October 2022

What Challenges do Students Experience When Transitioning to Higher Education & Why does it Matter?” Learning, Teaching and Training Activity (LTTA1) took place on 25-27 October in Groningen, the Netherlands. Core Working Groups from all START partner institutions met for an intensive 3-day peer-learning activity with the following intended learning outcomes:

1. Articulate challenges students experience when transitioning to HE, comparing local and global research findings with their own experience

2. Identify ways in which academics teaching first-year students can have a positive impact on student transition 

3. Encourage academics teaching first-year students in accepting, as part of their professional role, the task of supporting students in their transition to higher education


Professional development sessions organised on October 27th and open to all those working with first-year students at the University of Groningen brought together over 50 participants.

Transnational Meeting 2 (F2F) on October 28th allowed to evaluate this first LTTA1 and plan for next steps.

September 2022

20 September 2022 – Transnational Meeting 1 (online) to discuss the progress towards Result 1 and the draft agenda and preparation necessary for LTTA1.

August 2022

All START Partners start working on the Awareness Raising Toolkit. The first step is to review research publications and existing resources that give evidence-based answers
to the following three questions:

• WHY is transition to higher education (HE) a challenging experience? What challenges do diverse students face?

• WHY does this matter? Why not supporting students in their transition to HE has serious consequences?

• WHY should Academics care? What evidence do we have to say that those teaching first-year students have a strong impact on student transition and can really make a difference?

July 2022

4 July, 2022 – START Partners met online for the synchronous part of the Kick-Off Meeting. The first academic tasks were discussed, and the Communication and Dissemination Work Group established. It was a good opportunity to start getting to know each other and get inspiration for the first academic and dissemination actions.

June 2022

5 June 2022 – Introductory Kick-Off videos shared for the Core Working Groups to watch in preparation for the synchronous session. First (video) introductions shared via a Padlet wall.


Critically using and creating knowledge by engaging with disciplinary discourses and formulating arguments