Good Practice Note: Improving retention and completion of students in Australian higher education

Higher education Student retention Australia

This Good Practice Note identifies examples of good practice in Australian higher education providers in relation to increasing the retention and completion of students in their courses of study.

Work undertaken by the Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) in 2017, which included a long time-series analysis of retention in the Australian higher education system, showed that while national retention rates fell between 2011 and 2014, the 2014 rate was similar to the sector rate in 2005. Despite this relatively stable long-term situation for the sector as a whole, there is significant variation between the retention rates of individual higher education providers over this period, with some increasing or maintaining the retention rates for their students and others showing decreasing retention. Poor retention has an impact at both the institutional and individual student levels in terms of waste of resources and effort. Students who discontinue undergraduate studies frequently incur student debt. These students often consider that they have gained little benefit from their investment before dropping out.

Research has been done on the factors influencing retention of students and it is important for each institution to investigate the impact of these factors on their retention profile. The Australian Government is keen to improve retention and success of higher education students and is interested in the reasons for the difference in retention rates between institutions. Consequently, the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan, asked TEQSA to develop this Good Practice Note, which identifies innovative and effective approaches used by those providers showing strong and/or improving retention and completion rates.

This Note provides exemplars, which have been identified through an analysis of providers’ retention strategies submitted in response to a request from the Minister. An in-depth investigation of the specific strategies used by providers identified through TEQSA’s annual risk assessment process as showing improved or high retention over the last five years yielded further exemplars of good practice. The latter have been explored through a structured interview process with the identified providers.

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