Freshers off to flying start

August 23, 2002

Newly recruited students at the University of Central Lancashire have been offered a "flying start" four-day residential induction course to ease them in to higher education.

The special summer school was first piloted three years ago to help students with non-traditional entry qualifications adjust to university life.

Admissions chiefs were delighted to discover that the course had helped to cut a 38 per cent dropout rate for entrants holding Advanced GNVQs by 50 per cent.

This year, more than 500 prospective students have taken up flying-start places, which are open for the first time to all applicants with conditional or unconditional offers.

Peter Jones, who heads the programme, said flying-start students got the chance to sort out their accommodation and car-parking permits as well as to familiarise themselves with the campus before they were "plunged in at the deep end" at the start of the academic year.

Mr Jones said: "Research shows that some of the main reasons contributing to low retention rates are homesickness, isolation, financial worries and lack of experience of higher education.

"These apply to all first-year students, which is why we decided to offer the course more widely this year," he added.

Natalie Bleasdale, who will study forensic science at the university from September, said that the flying-start programme had helped her to know what to expect at the start of term.

"At first I thought it might be a bit boring, but I have really had a good time," she said.

Jim Burns, a software engineering student who joined the programme last year, said thatas a GNVQ student, he had not thought about going on to higher education until the last minute.

"Going on the flying-start course helped ease some of my apprehension about going to university. Without it, I might have been a bit bewildered," he said.

Mr Jones said that so far there had been only three cases of students changing their minds about going to the university after their flying-start experience.

"Two of them were cases of homesickness, so it is likely that they would have dropped out anyway," he said.

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