We found that programme design in the college sector can make significant differences to dropout rate and to the value of mathematics for students. In order to support students studying mathematically-demanding programmes (for example, science, engineering and technology), universities make special efforts to bring everyone up to a minimum standard in mathematics, and as quickly as possible. To achieve this, the mathematics that is perceived to be necessary is often taught in a mainly abstract way by mathematicians. This can compound the problems for students as there may be very few contextual links to the subject they came to study at university and presents a problem of transfer. In addition, due to economies of scale, students are often taught in large lectures which are rarely 'student-led' and lack responsiveness to the diversity students' needs, for example in terms of students' prior learning and ability to learn new mathematical concepts. At the same time, students have mainly been exposed to surface learning approaches in schools and colleges i.e. 'taught to the test'. This can prove a difficult obstacle to overcome at transition as students require support in developing new ways of learning (learning-to-learn).

Our experience from other phases suggests that universities would benefit from considering programme design as a potentially important factor in supporting mathematics in transition.