Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Publication Details

Presented at FIE conference"Student Interest", on October 24, 2015 at Camino Real El Paso 101 South El Paso Street El Paso, TX, USA.

Submitted with kind permission of IEEE Conference Catalysts, LLC.


Abstract—“Transfer shock” is a well-known phenomenon during the process of articulation, when students move from short-cycle applied programs to more academic longer-cycle study programs. In the US context this problematic transition has been observed in students transferring from community colleges into the traditional university system. In Ireland’s binary higher education structure, one set of institutions, known as Institutes of Technology (IoTs) allow for this transition to take place entirely within individual institutions. This paper is part of an ongoing investigation into one such IoT, where engineering students who achieve high grades at the end of 3-year (so-called Level 7) “ordinary degree” programs frequently transfer into the 3rd year of 4-year Level 8 “honors degree” programs, with surprisingly successful outcomes. One surprise derives from the fact that the students who enter Level 7 engineering programs are deemed at the outset to be academically less able, particularly in mathematics, than those who go directly into Level 8 programs from secondary school. Relatively little work has been done on this transition to date. In the 3rd and 4th year of many honors engineering programs within this institution it is not unusual to have 30-50% of the students coming from an ordinary degree background, the majority from within the institution itself – with others transferring from other IoTs in Ireland. Previous research has shown that students from this background initially struggle in the 3rd year of the honors degree program when compared with students who have proceeded directly through the honors program, before going on to successfully graduate. Can this be attributed to ‘transfer shock’; even though most of these students are continuing in an institution and with faculty that they are already familiar with? In order to examine this phenomenon we interview students from several engineering disciplines at various points in this transition. We explore the perceptions of the students regarding this transition and, based on the information coming from the interviews, we conduct a large scale survey to be administered to articulating students across engineering programs in the institution. The preliminary results of this survey are also presented here.