Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 755–786 | Cite as

A journey of negotiation and belonging: understanding students’ transitions to science and engineering in higher education

  • Henriette Tolstrup HolmegaardEmail author
  • Lene Møller Madsen
  • Lars Ulriksen


The paper presents results from a longitudinal study of students’ decisions to enrol on a higher education science programme and their experiences of it. The aim is to give insights into students’ transition process and negotiation of identity. This is done by following a cohort of 38 students in a series of qualitative interviews during a 3-year period starting as they were about to finish upper secondary school. We find that the students’ choice of study is an ongoing process of meaning-making, which continues when the students enter higher education and continuously work on their identities to gain a sense of belonging to their science or engineering programme. The use of a narrative methodology provides understanding of choice of study as involving changes in future perspectives and in the interpretation of past experiences. Further, we gain access into how this meaning-making process over time reflects the students’ negotiations in terms of belonging to higher education and their coping strategies when their expectations of their new programme interact with their first-year experiences.


Transition to higher science education Identities Educational choice Student narratives Negotiation strategies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lene Møller Madsen
    • 1
  • Lars Ulriksen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Science EducationUniversity of CopenhagenKøbenhavn KDenmark

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