Student retention and success

We are currently involved in a number of programmes and activities designed to support institutions in enhancing student retention and success. 

National audit office report

In July 2007 the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report into student retention.

This confirmed the strong performance of universities and colleges in retaining their students, at a time when higher education (HE) has grown. But it also found that the sector carries out little evaluation of the impact and transferability of this practice, despite the wide range of advice on good practice in this area.

What works? Student retention and success programme

Following the NAO report, we and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation made available a total of £1 million from 2008 to 2011 to support projects that identify, evaluate and disseminate institutional analysis and good practice relating to student retention.

The primary purpose of the programme was to analyse and share good practice about the most effective strategies to ensure high continuation and completion rates within HE.

Seven universities were selected and awarded grants to run projects. Many of these worked in partnership with other institutions. In total, 21 institutions were directly involved in the grants programme.

A team from the Higher Education Academy and Action on Access supported the programme and help to ensure effective co-ordination across the funded HE partners and maximum impact across the HE sector.

The seven funded projects, and the lead institutions, were:

  • Anglia Ruskin University: A comparative evaluation of the roles of student adviser and personal tutor in relation to undergraduate student retention
  • Aston University: Pathways to success through peer mentoring
  • 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
  • Northumbria University: Dispositions to stay and to succeed
  • Nottingham Trent University: HERE! Higher education retention & engagement
  • University of Reading: Comparing and evaluating the impacts on student retention of different approaches to supporting students through study advice and personal development
  • University of Sunderland: Good practice in student retention: an examination of the effects of student integration on non-completion.

A final report and a summary report of the programme are available from the Higher Education Academy web-site.

Reports from the individual projects are available.

The Higher Education Academy has also published a Compendium of effective practice in higher education retention and success, which includes contributions from several of the projects funded through the ‘What works? Student retention and success’ programme.

Further information

For further information regarding student retention and success please contact Clair Murphy, tel 0117 931 7138, e-mail

Page last updated 13 August 2012

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