The stages of the SET Model

This page provides an explanation of the stages in the model.

Diagram 1

First Contact and Admissions

The first contact and admission stage into higher education is a critical part of a student’s learning journey. Decisions made during this transition stage can impact on their university success and career. For many students, first contact with an institution is often when they are apply. This is also a time when aspirations and expectations are established.

It is now that an institution, especially the potential home unit, should start to shape the aspirations and expectations of applicants. Answers to commonly asked questions need to be provided and these can include:

  • why go to university?
  • why is it important to be on the ‘right’ course at a ‘suitable ‘university?
  • how and why will university study be different to previous types of study?
  • what is expected of a university student?
  • is university the only option?


The pre-arrival stage is an important time for applicants who have accepted a place at an institution. The relationship that a student develops with their institution during the pre-arrival phase can set engagement patterns and exert a strong influence on their ability to persevere and succeed.

During the pre-arrival period, we need to reinforce the questions raised and answered during the first contact and admissions stage.

It is also when academic and personal advice, and guidance and support on pre-arrival is given. Identifying needs, providing support to students with specific requirements, and giving answers to key questions, is critical in the pre-arrival preparation of the student.  Common questions include:

  • do I need to undertake any pre-entry academic work or reading?
  • what do I do when I arrive at university?
  • how do I register or enrol?

Arrival and Orientation

Arrival at university can be a seminal moment in the life of a student especially if it is the first time they have lived away from home, studied at a large institution or been exposed to a range of different cultures and life experiences. It can be an exciting yet nerve racking time for the student and can be a time of self doubt or self confidence.

Arrival and orientation is very different to ‘induction’ (Upcraft and Gardner, 1989). Arrival and orientation takes place over a very short period (e.g. two weeks) and relates to finding one’s way around an institution, starting the process of making friends, and settling into university life. Induction takes place over a longer period of time and relates to embedding students into university life and study. It is critical that the academic imperative is at the heart of arrival and orientation in order to help students settle into their studies as quickly as possible.

Upcraft, M.L. and Gardner, J.N (1989) The Freshman Experience: Helping students survive and succeed in college, San Francisco :Jossey-Bass

Induction to Study

Induction to Study (also known as Introduction to Study)  at university is a vital stage in the lifecycle of the student. It is essential that the student embeds quickly into their university studies so they do not disengage and possibly withdraw. The transition between the stages of arrival and orientation and induction to study is particularly important and needs to be seamless. Induction to study at university takes place over a longer period than just a few weeks. It is during this period that students adjust to university life and lean to cope with the demands of academia and pressures of life.  Practitioners need to understand that students’ lives today are complex as they need to balance a range of demands. It is unreasonable to expect students to separate their personal and university life because the two are entwined and one will impact on the other.

Reorientation and Reinduction

Returning students also need advice, guidance and support for their coming year of study.

A student can be returning to their studies having either successfully progressed from:

  • their first academic level of study;
  • a placement or study abroad;
  • a different study mode;
  • a period of intermission.

We cannot make the assumption that a returning student will know what to expect because they  survived their first level or year of study

Reorientation takes place at the start of each new academic level. It is the orientation into the new year for returners. During reorientation, students should be reminded of the academic and personal support they can access and what to expect in their specific level.

Reinduction, as with induction,  takes place over a longer period of time than just a few weeks. Reinduction takes place over the first term or semester of the new academic level (Level 2 and above) whereas induction can take up to between a semester or a full academic year.

During the reinduction period, it is important that students:

  • review and reflect on the academic and personal skills gained in the previous year;
  • look at how they can build on their skills in the coming year;
  • determine what they need to achieve in order to successfully progress.
  • It is important that reinduction activities are tailored to meet the needs of each academic level.  Again, it is important that this stage is managed by the home unit.


Students should be outducted of university just as they are inducted to university. The term Outduction was coined by Layer and Earle from the University of Bradford (Layer, 2005). It is also known as post-transition and re-entry. A student completing their course is one aspect of getting them through their student experience.  Just as we support students into the world of study, so we need to assist them to adapt and re-enter the world of life. This is a much neglected area of support in the student lifecycle and research is limited. There are initiatives being undertaken which support students leaving university that come under the Outduction stage but they tend to be local initiatives based on anecdotal or local research.

The questions students may need answered include:

  • how can skills learnt at university be transferred to life post study? 
  • what are the different study, travel and work options available after graduation?
  • how can these options impact on a student’s career and life in general?
  • how can the student make the adjustment from study to life after university?