Complex Trajectories

Promoting students’ successful trajectories in Higher Education Institutions: (Short title ‘Complex Trajectories’)


The ‘Complex Trajectories’ project explores how universities can better support students moving between institutions, changing course mid-study, or changing study mode.


This project considers the progression of students through their studies at several universities: both face to face and online. It considers the equity of students' experience and not just the efficiency of degree programmes. This places a focus on successfully completing degree study, no matter how complex the student's trajectory. Some students may take extended study breaks before returning to complete their degree or may find they can only study for part of each year. Others may change institution after realising their current choice is not working out as they had hoped or change degree after finding the subject they have chosen to study was not best suited to them.

Most HEIs have developed dashboards with key indicators relating to curriculum performance. However, representing and understanding the study paths of students is less well established. This project seeks to find methods that reveal and characterise patterns of trajectories to enable the development of better provision for support.

The role of IET

The Open University’s Pathways Project was formally established by IET at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year, after two years of preliminary developmental work. This uses new database technologies to assist in developing understandings of the implications of student choice on experience and study outcomes. It aligns very closely with that of the wider view of trajectories taken by the Complex Trajectories project.

Chris Edwards, project lead for The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) team comments:

“Understanding and supporting the wide range of student study patterns has become increasingly important, particularly where universities offer greater module choice. Students need to be given appropriate advice and support, and both staff and students need access to relevant information to enable success. Through this project we have collated the support that universities provide to help students navigate their complex study trajectories and apply data methods from other fields to reveal insights into these trajectories”.


Multiplier events hosted by the OU, Université de Bourgogne, and Universitat de València have taken place during 2023.

On Thursday 6 June 2023, the OU's Complex Trajectories seminar will share the progress that has been made to address this challenge and facilitate a dialogue with stakeholders in the field to share experience.

Register for the seminar below to explore the approaches academic researchers at IET have taken and access the resources that have developed to help universities across Europe.

Register for the research seminar here.


  • Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. This Project has received funding from the EU Project Reference: 2020-1-ES01-KA203-082842


  • Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Coordinator) – Spain
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona – Spain
  • Universitat de València – Spain
  • Universidade do Porto – Portugal
  • Universidade Aberta – Portugal
  • Université de Bourgogne – France
  • The Open University – United Kingdom