“What Works” – HEA/Paul Hamlyn Foundation project on student retention and attainment

Staffordshire University is a partner in this project, and three of our discipline areas will be working specifically on clearly defined projects over the next three years:
-Business Management
-Music Technology

We recognise the importance of the development of “belonging” in the first year of study. We believe that the inculcation of a sense of cohort belonging (through involvement, engagement and connectedness with the university experience, teachers and peers) is key to adapting to change.
Our focus will include the classroom environment and the core practices of education as key influencers on student experience and success reflecting the salience of the related notions of a learning community and transition pedagogy.
We will therefore focus on the transition to higher education and how students learn to engage with the academic sphere, maximising the opportunities for students to develop a sense of belonging and identity by improving the range of support mechanisms that we offer. In parallel to this, we will develop and make readily available more robust data on student engagement and attainment.

The proposed work streams across three selected programmes are as follows:

• Revise personal tutoring to improve relationships between students and staff and to support development of graduate attributes (one award initially)
• Developing knowledge culture and identity of students through engagement with the Staffordshire Graduate attributes programme (one award initially)
• Develop mentoring for level 4 students by level 5 (one award initially)

For all programmes we will:

• Review and improve pre enrolment communication and activities
• Review and improve welcome semester activities
• Improve data systems to support better tracking of student engagement and success
• Pilot the use of a student engagement survey based on the Australian AUSSE

Outcomes realised through participation:

• Students will develop a better sense of belonging to HE and to the institution with stronger relationships with academic staff and especially with their personal tutors which will encourage greater engagement with learning and teaching activities.

• Academic staff will be more engaged with their personal tutees, and be able to support the further development of academic community

• Improved data reports will be developed to support academic and faculty management staff to understand and recognise overall trends in withdrawal, retention and success.

• Improvements in retention and success at award level will be measured through our portfolio performance review system.

Expected quantitative measures of outcomes:

• Reduced withdrawal rates, especially at level 4
• Improved progression rates through all levels
• Improved percentage of students gaining 1sts and 2(i)s
• Improved results in internal/national student surveys
• Evidence base of student engagement