Welcome to the First-in-Family website!

This website is designed for current and intending university students who are the first in their immediate family to go to university, as well as for their families and for all those who work within the higher education sector. The resources created especially for this website are based upon our research with students who were the first in their family to enrol in a university. Our project team are dedicated to supporting individuals as they move into the university environment. Click here to find out about our latest publication based on research with first in family learners.

Scroll down to learn more about this project. We warmly welcome your feedback about the site.

  • I wanted to show my girls that they can do anything they want if they try.
  • I can give it a shot! I am surely not that stupid. I tried a unit, and to my own shock, I got a credit!
  • I just wanted to do something more ... be something more.
  • I've lived most of my life with blinkers on and suddenly the whole world has been opened up.
  • The biggest change is within myself .. I rather like who I am. I wish I'd me me earlier!

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About the Research

We interviewed and surveyed two main groups: current first-in-family students and their families. The students ranged in age from teenagers to people in their sixties. They were studying in a range of different ways - online, on-campus, distance, full-time and part-time - and were at different stages of their university journey, including some who were in an Enabling program and just about to commence a university degree.

As well as the students, we also wanted to include the ‘voices’ of family members, most of whom play such significant roles in the student's academic journey. So we also interviewed and surveyed a range of family members including parents, siblings, children, partners, grandparents and aunts/uncles. Their reflections focus on what it is like to witness a family member move into university and the impact this transition has on both the students and others close to them.

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Our main aims in the research were to explore how universities can support first-in-family students more effectively – by removing or at least reducing institutional barriers and by helping students to overcome other personal barriers that they encounter in their quest for higher education. We also wanted to explore ways in which universities can respond more effectively to student diversity and how they can connect with families and community of first-in-family students. However, when we talked with the students, a number asked how their stories would directly provide other students with guidance as they navigated their way through university, and so the idea for this website was born!

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About the Resources

We wanted this website to be authentic and so the content is based upon the stories told to us in interviews and via surveys. As you navigate through the pages, you will see that we have included resources designed for a range of audiences from the young children and teenagers of parents who are learners, through to the students themselves and of course the university staff involved in teaching and supporting learners. Our study participants provided tips and strategies that helped them to succeed and so we have condensed these into the “Top Five Study Hints” as well as advice about “What I wish I had known before starting!” We have compiled a range of student stories as we believe that reading about someone else’s journey can help you better understand the path others have taken as well as your own. The family members who participated provided great insight into how families can not only support learners but also survive!

For practitioners, we have included an overview of key considerations when teaching and supporting first-in-family students, recognising that modes of delivery and also contextual factors can impact how best to approach this support.

We dedicate this website to the women, the men and the children who so generously gave their time for this research. We will continue to add to the resources as more material emerges from the study. For those of you considering attending university, we encourage you to spend time reading about the experiences of others and so leave you some words of wisdom from our participants,

" … now I've got real direction and who knows where I'll end up … now I'm thinking about being a doctor. It's immense, like huge, really …” (31 year old male, interview)
"Well I’m actually really good at it … it’s amazed me that I’m actually doing really well … grades wise and also that I’m continuing with it because it’s not really something I thought was in me to stick it out, and I have, and now it’s almost like I can’t stop doing it” (36 year old single mum, interview)
“Once you step over the threshold of fear, there’s really not a whole lot to be worried about. (41 year old mother of 3, interview)

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