Third space strategists: International students negotiating the transition from Pathway program to postgraduate coursework degree

Helen Benzie


Pathway programs exist to prepare students for progression into university degrees but the transition experience for many students may not be as smooth as is suggested by the notion of the pathway. While attending a pathway program and at the beginning of their university degree, students may be in a third space, a liminal space where they engage in a complex process of becoming. They are required to negotiate a world shaped by different, and often conflicting discourses. In this productive space, identities can be explored and interrogated providing the potential for cultural adaptation and exchange. Using the “third space” to understand the student experience of transition, this paper examines interview responses from a group of postgraduate coursework international students as they complete a pathway program and begin to study in a degree program. Participants are found to be third space strategists as they translate their previous ways of learning, collaborate with other students, and reflect on their English language development. In some ways, these students demonstrate a better understanding of the cultural process of adjustment than the institution in which they study. These insights from students can inform curriculum design both in pathway and disciplinary contexts leading to the development of more relevant orientation and teaching programs.


pathway programs; international students; University preparation programs; identity

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