Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 6, No. 1 (2009)

Student success: The identification and support of first year university students at risk of attrition.

Karen J Nelson, QUT
Margot Duncan, QUT
John A Clarke, QUT


The engagement behaviour of 1,524 student-enrolments (“students”) in five first year units was monitored and 608 were classified as “at risk” using the criterion of not submitting or failing their first assignment. Of these, 327 were successfully contacted (i.e. spoken to by phone) and provided with advice and/or referral to learning and personal support services while the remaining 281 were not able to be contacted. Nine hundred and sixteen students were classified as “not at risk.” Overall, the at risk group who were contacted achieved significantly higher end-of-semester final grades than, and persisted (completed the unit) at more than twice the rate of, the at risk group who were not contacted. There were variations among the units which were explained by the timing of the first assignment, specific teaching-learning processes and the structure of the curriculum. Implications for curriculum design and supporting first year students within a personal, social and academic framework are discussed.

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