Contributing to a successful transition from secondary to higher education for students with support needs

Contributing tot a successfol transition

07 April 2020

Going from secondary education (VO) or special secondary education (VSO) into higher education can be a major step for students. The education changes, a more proactive attitude is expected from students, the care coordinator I is replaced by a student counsellor, and the list goes on. A study by ResearchNed showed that 30% of all students in higher education have a disability or chronic illness. As a result of disability or chronic illness, 10% of the whole student population has difficulties with their studies.

Furthermore, these students drop out twice as often as students with no support needs. The continuity of the learning pathway for education and support is of great importance to students with support needs II. How can you support students in your capacity as a secondary education professional III in order to ensure a smooth transition from secondary to higher education and how do you ensure the continuity of the support within higher education? This guide addresses all such issues.

This guide is divided into two parts:

  1. five steps that describe what education professionals can do together with students in order to ensure an optimal transition to higher education;
  2. four steps that describe what professionals can do on their own both within and outside the secondary school in order to ensure a smoother transition to higher education.


All tips in this guide are general in nature. The most important tip is to provide a tailored solution for each individual student, taking into account the fact that a great deal more independence and initiative will be expected from the student at the higher education level. Steps described here do not need to be conducted in any specific order. The guide has been written for professionals within secondary education (VO) or special secondary education (VSO), although it can also be useful for other interested parties.
Note that the higher education sector uses different terminology to secondary education. If you are not fully up to speed with higher education terminology in your capacity as an education professional, start by reading Section 2.1: ‘Ensure that your knowledge of higher education is up to date’.