160 teaching staff, support staff, policy makers, students and student representatives came together in London on Tuesday 11 April to share and explore findings from phase two of the ‘What Works? Student retention and success’ programme (What Works?2). The final report was launched at the conference.
The What Works? Student retention and success programme is a Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative working with the Higher Education Academy, Action on Access and 13 UK universities. The programme tested a range of approaches to improving student retention and success and implementing institutional change.
The report launch comes three weeks after HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) released data showing a rise in the non-continuation rate for full time students under 21 for the second consecutive year. The UK non-continuation rate for 2014/15 (the latest data set available) now stand at 6.2% after the first year of study, compared to 5.7% for 2012/2013. This is the first time the non-continuation rate has risen twice consecutively for 11 years.
What Works?2 highlights the importance of an institution wide approach to improving retention and success, including senior leadership, and the crucial role of research and evidence in developing solutions to issues of concern.
The programme showed that effective interventions had an academic purpose relevant to all students and were delivered in the mainstream, facilitating collaboration between students and staff. Interventions were most successful when ongoing, and part of a programme of measures featuring the monitoring and follow-up of engagement by individual students.
Jane Steele, Director, Evidence and Learning at Paul Hamlyn Foundation said:
“At Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we are committed to supporting and empowering individuals to reach their full potential. Identifying effective strategies to improve student retention and success removes some of the obstacles that students can face, and allows them to make decisions about their future in a more supported environment. I am delighted that What Works? has enhanced knowledge about student retention so impressively and hope the recommendations can be used by institutions across the country.”
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) said:
“As noted in the introduction to the What Works? report, ensuring students continue their studies to completion is a policy priority across the UK for both moral and economic reasons.. As the contributing universities demonstrate, holistic teaching and learning approaches that support student engagement as part of institution-wide change strategies can, and indeed are, making a very real difference – something we have been pleased to recognise through HEA Fellowship progression of so many of the staff who were directly involved.”