Improving the retention of first year students

by Graham Bishop

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Department: School of Engineering
Degree: Master of Engineering (Hons.)
Year: 2007
Keywords: University of Western Sydney; engineering students; student retention; engineering; study and teaching (higher); college dropouts; college attendance; New South Wales
Record ID: 1057046
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/42697


The thesis compares student attrition rates in two UWS Schools for 2004 and 2005. It analyses possible reasons why students discontinue and identifies strategies and approaches to improving the quality of the teaching and learning environment for these students. The thesis focuses on the retention of first year students in the School of Engineering at the University of Western Sydney. Low retention rates are costly to the university, leading to inefficient use of resources, failure to fulfil student aspirations, and intervention between the university and the student. In each chapter, the thesis addresses student retention, satisfaction and performance and the interrelation between them and outlines the measures taken by the School of Engineering to improve these measurements for students commencing in 2006 and proposes many recommendations for further improvements in subsequent years. Each chapter addresses these issues by following the student pathway, commencing with the student leaving High School and entering their chosen university and course of study. At each stage, the relevant issues are addressed which have a direct or indirect impact on student retention, satisfaction and performance. Use is made of reports and papers published by universities and organisations, as outlined in the Literature Review. The research questions provide data through the results obtained from surveys. Typical Retention Rates are 75% for UWS, 81% for the Sector, 76% for the New Generation Universities (NGUs) and 62% for the School of Engineering on which this research is focussed. This thesis confirms the research from many countries that closely links student retention with the quality of teaching and learning. Key issues are: • a sound first year student orientation and welcome by staff; encountering efficient, effective and accurate student. The introduction of a more effective and tailored orientation program in 2007 attracted, at UWS School of Engineering, 92% attendance and greater awareness by the students of their study program and the available support services; • having student queries responded to promptly and effectively; The introduction of a First Year Coordinator in 2007 proved to be well received, with a significant number of students having prompt responses to their queries, as compared with previous years; clear expectations management about services and key academic issues like assessment; the marketing of UWS Engineering programs was addressed in 2006 and 2007, with an expansion of the marketing program operated for feeder schools and improved awareness of student expectations prior to entry: an ongoing exercise; having committed, accessible, responsive and capable teaching staff; the accessibility and responsiveness of teaching staff to first year student issues, as outlined in this thesis, is being addressed in 2007; receiving prompt and helpful feedback on their learning; an issue being addressed by the First Year Teaching Team as an essential element of the teaching and learning process; together with:…