Foundations for sUCCess: UCC PLUS+ Orientation

Bent, Maeve (2011) Foundations for sUCCess: UCC PLUS+ Orientation. [Conference Proceedings]


Successful Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) students, who enter University College Cork (UCC), register with the UCC PLUS+ Programme. These students will have met with specific and defined social and economic criterion, which ascertains that they are from low-income households and/or non-traditional third level backgrounds. The UCC PLUS+ Programme provides a range of practical, financial and academic supports to this student cohort throughout their time in UCC. Recent research, undertaken for the Gateway to sUCCess: The Destination of UCC PLUS+, established that there are direct linkages between the provision of supports, a positive student experience and impressive retention and progression rates. However, it is the week-long fully residential Orientation offered to incoming first year students, by the UCC PLUS+ Programme, that has been consistently identified each year, by the students themselves, as the most positive element of their 'First Year Experience'. Their evaluation will have taken into account the broader context of first year university life and the wider institutional strategy for a positive first year student experience. It is suggested here that the success of the Orientation is down to certain aspects. Namely, that over the week long schedule of activities, students are given a chance to process their new environment, comprehend the pedagogical changes between the second and third level educational systems, gain a familiarity of their new milieu (ahead of main start-up) and the opportunity to establish supportive peer- networks. Students also meet individually with a UCC PLUS+ staff member and any particular support needs are identified, ahead of term start up. Students acquire, throughout the week, a unique tacit knowledge of the spaces and places that make up UCC, and of their chosen degree programmes. They form enduring friendships and gain a confidence that provides them with a new assurance of their ability to manage the main orientation process, the start-up of their studies and for many the transition of moving away for home. In sum, the Orientation gives them the foundations for success.

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