University students hope to inspire others in new book

Media release
Issued 26 July 2010

Young New Zealanders look back at their personal journeys from low or mid-decile schools to tertiary education in a new book compiled by The Starpath Project at The University of Auckland.

Uni Bound? Students stories of Transition from School to University is a rare insight into how 15 students, many of them from economically disadvantaged communities, survived the process of adjusting to tertiary study. Many of the contributors are the first in their family to embark on a university education.

“The transition process can be particularly challenging for students with little previous contact with universities. We hope this book will inspire secondary school students who are planning to go to university, and those wondering if they should,” says Starpath Director, Associate Professor Elizabeth McKinley.

The book stems from a Starpath research project, which followed nearly 50 students from high school, over summer, to their first semester of tertiary study. It sought to understand why many able students from disadvantaged backgrounds begin to struggle, and often drop out, once they reach university study.

Each of the students featured in the book has contributed a chapter about their own experiences of striving to gain a higher education and adjusting to university life. The authors reflect the ethnic mix of New Zealand today – with Māori, Pacific, and European/Pākehā voices. They come from rural and urban schools from Auckland and Northland, and attend universities all over New Zealand. Some excel in their first year, while others learn to deal with failure.

“Their stories are open and honest. They provide a real glimpse of what is like to leave the familiarity of school, family and community to become a university student,” Dr McKinley says.

The final chapter is written by Dr McKinley and Starpath researcher Dr Irena Madjar, and covers tips for a successful transition to university.

Uni Bound? Students stories of Transition from School to University is published by NZCER Press and is available online at

Pictured are students who contributed to the book at its launch in July 2010.