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Prior learning experience, study expectations of A-Level and BTEC students on entry to university and the impact of Covid19

This report, authored by Dr. Michelle Morgan and published by the OIE, investigates and compares the prior learning experiences, impact of Covid19 and expectations of A-Level and BTEC students on entry to university across two surveys undertaken between 2019 and 2021.

The participating UK-based institutions were the Universities of Bournemouth (2019), Leeds Beckett and East London (2021). Data was collected via the pre-arrival academic questionnaire.

There are a number of key observations arising from this report that have practical, strategic and policy implications. There is consistency in many of the findings across the surveys undertaken in 2019 and 2021 between those respondents holding only A-Levels and only BTEC as their highest entry qualification. The differences highlighted will affect the level of engagement, sense of belonging, retention and success, and will further be exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis.  The findings in this report provides:

  • Data that underpins university student aspirations, progression, retention and achievement.
  • A deep dive into aspects of data that impact on particular higher education institutions demographic and contextual issues.
  • A guide for staff for within those HEIs to help inform policy and strategic interventions that can support and engage students.
  • Commentaries by leaders and experts in the field providing suggestions and advice on the way forward for the sector.

"Advance HE is pleased to have the opportunity to host this valuable report on our site and help it reach as wide an audience as possible. Among a wealth of vital insights, the report makes a key contribution to our understanding of students’ prior experiences and how this has shaped what they may expect higher education to be like. Looking specifically at the student expectations, the annual Advance HE – HEPI Academic Experience Survey regularly finds that undergraduate student experiences are different from expectations, but it is not always easy to know what those expectations were. This report provides vital evidence to help plug that gap, for example in terms of contact hours, independent study hours, study and assessment styles, and preferred types of feedback.

We are grateful to Michelle and her colleagues at the Office for Institutional Equity, University of East London, for enabling us to help share the report in this way"

Jonathan Neves, Head of Business Intelligence and Surveys, Advance HE

Prior learning experience, study expectations of A-Level and BTEC students on entry to university and the impact of Covid19
Prior learning experience, study expectations of A-Level and BTEC students on entry to university and the impact of Covid19 View Document

The Office for Institutional Equity (OIE)

The Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) was established in 2019 to advocate for the advancement of an equitable, inclusive, respectful, and anti-racist community at UEL. It is responsible for governance and oversight of EDI matters and implementation of the REC, Athena SWAN, Disability Confidence and Stonewall Action Plans, organising various equality interventions for staff and students, and curating the voices of individuals with intersecting characteristics through staff networks and other interest groups. The Dean of the OIE (DOIE) attends and contributes to UMB, UEB, Deans/Provost, EEC, Academic Board, BOG and other institutional level committees. The DOIE also acts as the chair of the insttitutional EDI Committee which oversees all the Schools’ and PS sub-EDI committees.


Dr Michelle Morgan is a national and internationally recognised Student Experience Transitions Specialist across all levels of study and is extensively published in the area. She is currently Dean of Students at the University of East London. Michelle is a Principal Fellow of the HEA, Fellow of the AUA , an elected council member of UKCGE and Student Minds Mental Health Charter Assessor. During her varied career, Michelle has been a faculty manager, lecturer, researcher and academic manager. She describes herself as a ‘Third Space Integrated Student Experience Practitioner’ who develops initiatives based on pragmatic and practical research. Michelle has over 50 publications and has presented over 100 national and international conference papers (including 58 keynotes and 35 invited papers). She has developed a free portal for staff which provides a range of information and links for anyone interested in improving the student experience in higher education. 

Michelle was creator and PI/Project Lead of an innovative, £2.7 million, 11 university collaborative HEFCE grant, looking at the study expectations and attitudes of postgraduate taught (PGT) students. The project report received praise from across the sector including UKCGE, OFFA, the HEA and the Engineering Professor’s Council.