OnTrack to university: understanding mechanisms of student retention in an Australian pre-university enabling program

Author: Joanne G. Lisciandro & Gael Gibbs

Murdoch University

Edition: Volume 56, Number 2, July 2016

Summary: University-based enabling programs have become an important pathway to university for non-traditional students. There is increasing interest in understanding the mechanisms that facilitate retention and success of enabling pathway students, with the aim of developing effective strategies for maximising opportunities for university access and participation. The current study focuses on an Australian enabling program that has achieved and sustained high retention rates, with three-quarters of its 2115 students that enrolled during the last seven years (2008 – 2014) retained until the end of the program. Further, 90 per cent of retained students were successful in receiving an offer to university; and 94 per cent of students that received an offer subsequently enrolled in an undergraduate course. Multivariate regression analysis revealed that demographic and prior educational factors explained little about student retention in the program. The main reasons cited for withdrawal were medical or emotional issues, and family problems or responsibilities. Overall, this data suggests that both pre-program conduct and in-program practices may enhance student retention outcomes. Specifically, practices that support the development of strong peer and tutor-student relationships, and that foster community connections, are thought to provide a significant and positive influence on student retention in enabling programs.

Keywords: enabling programs, retention, attrition, success, non-traditional students

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This article is part of AJAL, Volume 56_2. The entire volume is available in .pdf for purchase here.OnTrack to university: understanding mechanisms of student retention in an Australian pre-university enabling program

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