The first year in Higher Education (FYHE) is a major hurdle for most students: they are faced with many new challenges including adjusting to new learning environments, identifying expectations, managing their time and using effective study skills. Difficulties in this adjustment results in large academic failure in Flanders (e.g. up to 60% of students) as in many Western countries. Though demographic and contextual factors are known to influence students' academic achievement, student factors have recently been evidenced to be more influential.
The present project examines the three crucial student factors: prior achievement, academic self-concept and self-regulation. Although previous research has shown the value of each of the three factors in explaining academic achievement in FYHE, empirical studies are most often limited to a partial picture focusing on only one of these three important factors for study success and a single measurement moment of these factors. Therefore the impact of these studentfactors and interaction in between and across time have not yet been examined in relationship with first year study succes. Therefore, the present study sets out:
1. to examine the effects of prior achievement, academic self-concept, and self-regulation on academic achievement within FYHE;
2. to understand how interactions between academic achievemet, academic self-concept, and self-regulation during the FYHE have an impact on study success at the end of FYHE;
3. to develop an integrated model of based on research on the effects (and interactions between) these studentfactors and relationship with academic achievement in FYHE.
To attain these research objectives, a longitudinal mixed method research design is proposed. The quantitative dataset has already been collected using a representative sample of 3700 students from 32 schools. These students were followed up in five consecutive waves from the last year of secondary education up to the second year in higher education. Data regarding students' academic achievement (e.g., number of credits obtained) were recently collected from the Flemish Department of Education and Training. The longitudinal qualitative data will be collected during the project and consists of three indepth- nterviews within a cross-disciplinary sample of 20 students making the transition to higher education.
The present research innovates at the empirical and conceptual level (by examining the interplay between students factors and the impact on academic achievement), theoretically (by constructing a much needed, contemporary theoretical framework for academic achievement in the first year of higher education) and at the methodological level (by using a mixed method longitudinal design). The results from this research will also deliver practical innovation, through more research-based student guidance initiatives in the first year of higher education with regard to the development of academic self-concept and self-regulation of students in first year higher education.