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Intervention for retention : how can academic and social support help universities keep their students?

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Alison Owens, S Loomes
Government funding for Australian universities has diminished over the last decade placing significant financial pressure on universities. To address this fiscal challenge, universities have become more reliant on the international student market. In addition to their significant financial contribution to Australian higher education and general economy, international students enrich the educational experience for all and enhance Australia’s relationships with other nations (Gillard, 2009). However, this market has been critically affected by recent events and concerns particularly in relation to the safety and wellbeing of international students. In such a nationally and internationally competitive environment, the challenge for our universities is to develop innovative ways to improve the retention of all students. Tinto’s influential model of retention (1975; 2006) depicts academic and social integration as the key factors affecting a student’s decision to continue their study program with a higher education provider. Comprehensive national policy and framework governing the delivery and reporting of education offered to international students has meant that some universities have collected extensive data on international student including attendance, assessment submission and academic progress. This has allowed good-practice institutions to develop comprehensive systems for early identification of students ‘at risk’ and to provide support programs aimed at improving their academic and social integration. CQUniversity’s program of Monitoring of Academic Progress (MAP) has successfully supported many hundreds of students to improve a record of poor academic progress as a result of personalised intervention from a team of staff who focus on academic and welfare support. As failing courses is acknowledged in retention literature as a critical ‘drop out event’, this paper tracks and reports the program completion or retention rates for these MAP students. Individual interviews with a cohort of recent MAP ‘graduates’ describe the impact of these personalised academic and social intervention strategies and how this additional support can turn around potential ‘drop-outs’ who then can successfully go on to complete their study program. Interviews also explore if international student retention may be positively affected by other factors, such as the significant financial and personal investment they have made and related family obligations, as well as the regulations of their overseas student visas. Although retention literature generally identifies students as ‘drop outs’, ’throw outs’ and ‘persisters’, a further group of interest is emerging at CQUniversity: the ‘returners’. These are students who voluntarily ‘dropped out’ to attend another institution but then ‘dropped out’ again and returned to their initial provider. Such ‘rebound-retention’ students are also surveyed in the research to identify: why they left; where they went and why they returned. Results of this research illuminate an international student’s experiences of MAP and how this can affect study experiences and outcomes particularly in relation to retention. Further, this research provides an understanding of international student ‘returners’ and their motivations for moving in and out of higher education institutions. Insight into international student retention can assist universities to address differentials between domestic and international cohorts and improve retention for all students.


Parent Title

Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) : Engaging for the Future, Sydney, 12th-15th October, 2010, Sydney.

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Sydney, NSW


IDP Education & International Education Association of Australia

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Peer Reviewed

  • No

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

International Education Research Centre (IERC); International Education Research Centre (IERC);

Era Eligible

  • No

Name of Conference

Australian International Education Conference