The Project

The project is investigating student attrition in enabling programs and is developing a range of evidence-based best practice strategies to improve student retention rates in enabling programs along with guidelines for their use. These results will be widely disseminated in order to help practitioners of enabling education to improve the effectiveness of their programs in helping students succeed in their desire to gain a university education.

The project is studying student retention and attrition processes in five Australian university-based enabling programs, an increasingly important pathway enabling those who lack the qualifications, especially those from equity target groups, including those from low socio-economic groups, to gain access to higher education.

Student attrition rates in such programs are often perceived to be high. While this judgement is based on a comparison to student attrition in undergraduate degree programs, which differ significantly in purpose and nature, there is no doubt that improving the student retention rate in enabling programs is a highly desirable goal.

While extensive study has been devoted to the corresponding processes in undergraduate programs, little is known of the distinctive features, if any, of student attrition in enabling programs. This study will address that gap, providing an evidence base for development of appropriately targeted intervention measures to improve student retention in university-based enabling programs. Our results will be actively disseminated by means of a dedicated website, the holding of regional workshops, presentations at relevant conferences and publication of scholarly articles.

The project will:

1.  Investigate the nature and patterns of student attrition across the programs of the five participating institutions to compare attrition patterns from each and identify systemic similarities and differences to patterns of student attrition in undergraduate degree programs;

2.  Develop a suite of appropriately targeted evidence-based intervention strategies to improve student retention rates in university-based enabling programs on the basis of the information obtained from our investigation;

3.  Develop guidelines of best practice to accompany the suite of strategies;

4.  Effectively disseminate the strategies and guidelines for their use nationally and internationally via a website, a program of workshops and regional discussion, as well as the presentation of conference papers and publications.

Funding for the project was gained in 2010 through the Competitive Grants program of the Australian Teaching and Learning Council and is now supplied through the  Australian Government Office of Learning and Teaching.