What works? Student retention and success programme: 2008 - 2012

The What works? Student retention and success programme was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) between 2008 and 2012. Liz Thomas was the programme director. The National Audit Office report Staying the course: the retention of students in higher education (2007) and the subsequent Public Accounts Committee (2008) identified a lack of progress in improving retention and a lack of evidence about what works.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and HEFCE provided £1 million and supported 7 projects involving 22 HEIs to identify, evaluate and disseminate effective practice. The primary purpose of the programme was to generate robust, evidence-based analysis and evaluation about the most effective practices to ensure high continuation and completion rates.

The final report Building student engagement and belonging in higher Education at a time of change: Final report from the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme and an Executive summary are available here.

The report is a synthesis of the key messages, findings, implications and recommendations emanating from the projects funded through the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme 2008-2011, and includes case studies of what works.

The final research report includes:

• a summary of key messages based on a synthesis of the evidence from the seven projects;
• presentation of the What Works? model for improving student engagement, belonging, retention and success;
• a full discussion about the practical implications of the research programme, including illustrative examples of specific ways in which higher education institutions have improved student engagement, belonging, retention and success;
• consideration of the strategic implications of adopting the What Works? approach to improving student retention and success, including an institutional reflective checklist;
• conclusions from the research programme and some suggestions of how institutions can use the learning from the What Works? programme to enhance student engagement, belonging, retention and success.

The seven projects:

Anglia Ruskin University: A comparative evaluation of the roles of student adviser and personal tutor in relation to undergraduate student retention

Aston University: Peer Mentoring Works! How Peer Mentoring Enhances Student Success in Higher Education

University of Leicester: ‘Belonging' & 'intimacy' factors in the retention of students - an investigation into student perceptions of effective practice and how that practice can be replicated http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/genetics/genie/projects/student-retention-and-success

Northumbria University: Dispositions to stay: the support and evaluation of retention strategies using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory

Nottingham Trent University: HERE! Higher education retention & engagement http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/what-works-student-retention/HERE_Project_What_Works_Final_Report

University of Reading/ Oxford Brookes University: Comparing and evaluating the impacts on student retention of different approaches to supporting students through study advice and personal development http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/what-works-student-retention/Reading_Oxford_Brookes_What_Works_Final_Report

University of Sunderland: Good practice in student retention: an examination of the effects of student integration on non-completion

The Higher Education Academy published two collections of effective practice which are related to the What works model.
1. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/what-works-student-retention/Compendium_Effective_Practice
2. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/retention/Compendium_volume_two

For further details please contact liz@lizthomasassociates.co.uk