Rurality and Student Transitioning in Higher Education

An Exploration of Views of University of Zambia Students

  • Gift Masaiti Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies, University of Zambia
  • Dennis Banda Department of Language and Social Sciences Education, University of Zambia
  • Bibian Kalinde Primary Education, University of Zambia
  • Katongo Bwalya Primary Education, University of Zambia
Keywords: Rurality, Orientation, Academic Performance, Remoteness, Transitioning, Higher Education


The University of Zambia, located in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, has an enrolment system which is open to all deserving candidates. Cognisant of the degree-attainment gap between rural and urban areas of the country, the university introduced a Rural Affirmative Policy that is envisioned at augmenting enrolments of rural applicants. This article investigated the scopes of rurality and its influence on the transition to higher education amongst students with rural backgrounds. Using unstructured interviews, sixteen conveniently sampled students were probed in order to obtain the most in-depth lived experience information on how their rural backgrounds influenced their settling down and learning at the University of Zambia. A categorical analysis of the data collected in the study resulted in five emerging themes: context of rurality among students, students’ transitioning, challenges faced by students, coping strategies adopted by students and established support systems for students with rural backgrounds and their progression and completion rates. Results of this study suggest that students from rural communities face additional challenges in order to adjust to the university compared to students from urban and sub-urban areas. Apart from the affirmative policy on admission, there are no mechanisms put in place to cushion the cultural shock such students face once on campus.