Student success program boosts retention rates

27 April 2012

Mitchell Cox understands the pressure university can put on new students.

As a final-year biomedical science student at QUT, Mitchell has learned to juggle study, work and a social life and is able to share his tips for success with other students.

Mitchell and fellow student Alexandra Christensen are part of an experienced student adviser team helping to lift retention rates at QUT through the Student Success Program.

"Through our own experience, we have an idea of what we need to do to succeed and because we're students it's less confronting to talk to us," Mitchell said.

"Sometimes really dramatic things happen in people's lives and if we can touch base and let them know the university cares it can make a big difference to them."

Professor Karen Nelson, director of Student Success and Retention at QUT, said experienced students offered on-the-phone support and advice to students and joined them up with university services.

"These advisers are highly trained and as well as that they speak from their own experience," she said.

"Because of the advice and support provided by these advisers, five per cent or more of students who would have left stay at QUT."

Professor Nelson said a range of university-wide strategies had improved retention rates.

"We are making significant progress in reducing the number of students who leave university," she said.

"New figures show nearly 13 per cent of first year QUT students who commenced studies in 2011 were no longer studying this year, compared to 16.7 per cent for the previous year."

Professor Nelson said QUT's Student Success Program was supported by research that showed purposeful early intervention prevented disengagement for a large proportion of students.

"We use indicators to look for behaviours that signal that a student may be starting to disengage from university or from their studies," she said.

"For example, are they attending classes and checking their email and blackboard sites on a daily basis? Is it their first course choice and do they have family experience with university?"

For Alexandra, who is studying a Bachelor of Laws, it's rewarding to help other students in need.

"We feel like we're making a meaningful contribution to student life," she said.

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Students Mitch Cox and Alex Christensen help fellow students cope with the pressure of university life.