Turning aspirations into reality: How teachers can support students’ transition to university and vocational education and training

This report was originally published 05 August 2013.

Image: Turning aspirations into reality


The transition from school to career is one of the most significant transitions people experience in life. It is an important foundation of a happy and productive adult life, and is the point when young people can start to fulfil their potential in a way that affects their future.

Schools play an important role in helping students make a positive transition to further education, training and employment.

Not all young people however, are equally likely to enjoy a strong transition from school to career. This Learning Curve looks at the post-school expectations and destinations of young people in New South Wales, especially those who aspire to go to university.

We need to understand better what influences students’ post-school pathways so that we can provide students with the support they need to realise their potential.

Key findings

  • Students hold high aspirations for attending university when they leave school - much higher than their teachers’ expectations for them.
  • Teachers have more influence than careers advisors on students as they make choices about their post-school pathways.
  • Students’ post-school aspirations and destinations are affected by their gender, socio-economic status and where they live.
  • Although students from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to go to university, high- achieving students from less advantaged backgrounds go on to university at an even higher rate.
  • Fewer students are choosing to study subjects at school that will increase their university chances.
  • Students in non-metropolitan areas are less likely to expect to go to university, regardless of socio-economic background or ability levels.

About this report

This report is based on data from a representative survey of New South Wales students from government, Catholic and independent schools commissioned by the Board of Vocational Education and Training (BVET). More than 6,000 students in Years 10-12 responded to questions about their expectations and choices. The survey also collected information from a sample of their parents, teachers and principals.

Turning aspirations into reality

Schools need to provide equitable opportunities for students. It is important for schools and teachers to understand the influences on students making the transition from school to post-school destinations and to provide students with the support they need to realise their potential.

The best results for students will be gained when teachers see themselves as part of a whole-school effort to work towards achieving students' aspirations.

A whole school approach would involve teachers:

  • Advising students about their subject selections
  • Monitoring progress of their students across the whole course of their study, not just in one subject
  • Engaging with students and parents early about their aspirations. This involves all teachers, not just secondary teachers.


  • Post-school
  • Research report

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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