Students coping with change in higher education: an overview

Mary Jesselyn Co, Samira Hamadeh Kerbage, Georgina Willetts, Loretta Harvey, Ananya Bhattacharya, Glen Croy, Bruce Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Higher education institutions implement purposeful change to improve their performance or impose changes in response to their external environments. To deal with these changes, students are expected to develop their coping capacity – the emotional and cognitive ability to manage the demands of adverse situations. Student coping is composed of four interdependent core elements – self-efficacy, engagement, resilience and anxiety. This article synthesizes the evidence on the effect of higher education changes on student's ability to cope. Using Polanin et al.’s (2017) overview process, our search generated 551 articles, and after three rounds of screening, the remaining 12 reviews were analyzed using the narrative descriptive synthesis approach. We found that the quality assessment within the included reviews were inconsistent and, sometimes not clearly defined. From the analysis of the reviews, four key themes emerged: (1) change is complex; (2) the nature of change is varied; (3) there is an interdependent relationship between the coping elements; and (4) the measurement of change is not sophisticated. Our findings highlight the need for higher education institutions to adopt a principle-based approach to purposefully develop students' coping capacity, by improving their self-efficacy, engagement, and resilience, and reducing anxiety. Limitations and future research directions are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100508
Number of pages25
JournalEducational Research Review
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Engagement
  • Resilience
  • Self-efficacy
  • Anxiety
  • University students

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