Improving Student Preparedness and Retention—Perceptions of Staff at Two Universities

  •  David Marr    
  •  Camilla Nicoll    
  •  Kathryn von Treuer    
  •  Christina Kolar    
  •  Josephine Palermo    


In 2010 the Australian government provided funding under the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) to assist universities to achieve a 20 percent participation rate for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. This funding has allowed universities the opportunity to implement projects towards this end. This study explores the reactions of staff employed in devolving HEPPP projects within Deakin University (DU) and Southern Cross University (SCU). Both universities have a diverse student body, with participation by regional and low socioeconomic status (SES) students at higher proportions than the national higher education average. DU has used its HEPPP funds to establish the Deakin University Participation and Partnerships Program (DUPPP), which comprises community, school and technical/vocational education and training partnerships, embedded academic skills programs, and inclusive support programs. In contrast, SCU, through its i-OnTrack project, is developing a tracking system that will follow cohorts of students coming from diverse backgrounds in order to identify those factors in their life that either impede or boost academic excellence. Key informant interviews of academic staff at both these universities (N=18) were thematically analyzed and compared. Our recommendations for institutional practice across Australia arising from this analysis include: the need to maintain appropriate resourcing for academic staff (especially for casual tutors) to support the kinds of programs that make a difference, to commence intervention programs early at secondary school and prior to the students entering university, and for intervention programs to target all students in order to capture any students who may not be obviously at risk.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4741
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-475X
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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