Flexible academic support to enhance student retention and success

van der Sluis, Hendrik, May, Steve, Locke, Lorraine and Hill, Michael (2013) Flexible academic support to enhance student retention and success. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 15(2), pp. 79-95. ISSN (print) 1466-6529


This paper focuses on the development of Academic Skills Centres (ASCs) at an English University and their impact on the achievement and success of attendees, a high proportion of who are from lower socio-economic groups and Black Minority Ethnic backgrounds. The ASCs aim to meet the needs of students with diverse learning styles and encourage academic skills development through active participation in the learning process. Staffed by both students and lecturers, they adopt flexible approaches and techniques to meet the academic needs of students in a less formal environment than conventional lecturers or seminars. Associations between student success and ASC engagement have been measured through linking attendance records to student profile data using the institutional student record system, enabling analysis of retention, progression, and attainment of users and non-users against a range of profile variables. The results suggest that this is a flexible scheme, able to accommodate the needs of students by creating an environment in which a proactive attitude and dialogue are developed where students are able to enhance their general skills, resulting in greater social mobility through improved retention, attainment and employability.

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