further & higher education

Increasing Student Retention Across Higher Education

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:00

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Central London, London

Early Bird Discount Offer

10% off all advertised rates for a limited time only. Discount available to public / voluntary organisations only.


This Forum will provide attendees with the opportunity to assess the current state of student retention across higher education. In addition, participants will hear from best practice case studies on increasing student engagement, implementing a successful peer mentoring scheme and increasing communication with students.


This Forum is designed for Higher Education sector. Typical job titles will include:

  • Pro Vice Chancellors
  • Retention Managers
  • Heads of Planning
  • Heads of Student Admissions and Success
  • Student Experience Managers
  • Heads of Retention
  • Heads of Engagement
  • Academic Support Officers
  • Senior Lecturers
  • Department Heads
  • Academic Support Officers
Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Dr Joan O’ Mahony, Academic Lead, Student Retention, Advance HE
  • Kathryn Petrie, Senior Economist, Social Market Foundation
  • Sarah Davies, Head of Higher Education and Student Experience, Jisc
  • Alexander Proudfoot, Chief Executive, Independent HE
  • Richard Brabner, Director, UPP Foundation
View the agenda and additional speakers

Over 29% of students in Higher Education will not complete their degree leading to a workforce that is not fit for purpose. With University drop-out rates rising for the third year in a row it is becoming increasingly important for Universities to address the challenge of student retention fast.

With record percentages of students going to university it is important that institutions have strategies in place to ensure they are able to keep these students. Widening participation strategies are in place across the higher education sector, however universities are then struggling to ensure these students complete their degrees. A report published by the Social Market Foundation’s in 2017 highlights significant variations in performance across regions and highlights that disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out.  Student retention is now an importance metric for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), so universities will be pushing to ensure all of their students are engaged and happy to complete their studies.

In an increasingly competitive international university marketplace and with the introduction of the TEF it is imperative that universities are able to develop effective student retention strategies.

Universities that are able to deliver an outstanding student experience, increase retention rates, boost access and improve student engagement will thrive within the current higher education landscape.



Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Luke Millard, Director of Education Development Services, Birmingham City University (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Understanding the Landscape of Student Retention

  • Understanding the key aspects of the London Retention Project
  • Discussing the most effective ways of identifying students that are at risk of dropping out and how best to approach the situation
  • Exploring the importance of supporting non-campus based students and the different challenges they pose to student retention
  • Ensuring collaboration between different departments and universities to share best practice and reduce student drop outs nationally

 Dr Joan O’Mahony, Senior Advisor (Student Retention & Success), Advance HE (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Analysing Student Drop-Out Rates and Offering Solutions to Boost Retention

  • Exploring the key findings from ‘On course for success? Student retention at university’, including the correlation between lower student satisfaction rates and student drop-outs
  • Examining the different factors that can cause lower retention rates, such as living costs, institutional factors, student characteristics and student satisfaction
  • Understanding the recommendations put forward by SMF to improve retention such as; prioritising higher education participation as a route for social mobility and preparing prospective students for the university experience
  • Discussing why London and the North West have the poorest retention rates and how universities can work with the government to ensure they are creating inclusive environments in relation to housing and transport for all students

Kathryn Petrie, Economist, Social Market Foundation (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Ensuring Effective Communication with Students to Improve Retention Rates

  • Discussing how the University of Wolverhampton improved retention by ensuring students understood what was expected of them before starting assignments including communicating assessment criteria and giving students formal opportunities for discussion
  • Creating a communication pathway between lecturers and students to improve student engagement and increase student confidence throughout their studies
  • Ensuring working students are supported throughout their studies by creating effective communication pathways to allow assignments to be completed within a shorter time-scale
  • Outlining the challenges to student retention for non-traditional students, including first-generation students and over 30’s and the additional challenges these groups may have, such as term-time jobs

Dr Debra Cureton, Senior Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Enhancing Student Experiences Through Peer Mentoring

  • Exploring how Aston University has implemented a peer mentoring scheme to create positive student experiences
  • Understanding the benefits of mentoring and how this can positively impact retention rates by increasing students social and academic confidence
  • Discussing the success of the peer mentoring programme in creating an inclusive environment for all students and increasing communication on a university wide scale
  • Sharing guidance on the lessons learned from the implementation of the peer mentor scheme and how to attract student into being mentors

Victoria Carroll, Peer Mentoring Officer, Aston University (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Effectively Using Learning Analytics to Increase Student Retention

  • Increasing the focus on retention: discussing why universities should be focussing on student retention rates to stop more than 29,000 full time students from dropping out within their first year
  • Understanding the role of learning analytics in student retention and how they can help to identify students at risk of dropping out by reviewing attendance and grade data
  • Discussing the next steps once a student has been identified as being at risk of dropping out and how to continuously track this through learning analytics
  • Assessing the effectiveness of any interventions made in real time and being able to make changes to intervention methods quicker
  • Exploring the wider implications that learning analytics evaluations can have on student services across a whole higher education institution
  • Sharing guidance from various case studies that have successfully used learning analytics to impact their retention methods

Sarah Davies, Head of Higher Education and Student Experience, Jisc (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Understanding Why Students Drop Out

  • Highlighting the possible barriers to retention for disadvantaged or under represented groups
  • Exploring what universities can do to increase the amount of under represented student groups completing their degrees including improving efforts to ensure all students feel included in the university community
  • Discussing why it is vital for universities to understand why ethnicity is a factor in a student decision to leave higher education
  • Sharing guidance on how universities should work in partnership with the government and other institutions to provide a cohesive approach to improving retention

Richard Brabner, Director, UPP Foundation (CONFIRMED)

Case Study: Optimising Data Usage to Inform Student Retention Policies

  • Exploring how Nottingham Trent University (NTU) used annual research questionnaires to understand the possible reasons behind students leaving university and how this data impacted their retention policies
  • Discussing how the NTU student dashboard was implemented and how this affected student retention rates
  • Understanding the importance of creating an engagement and retention team and ensuring all university staff are aware of the importance of retention
  • Highlighting the most successful methods for increasing student retention at NTU, and future schemes that will be implemented such as a peer support and mentoring scheme

Ed Foster, Student Engagement Manager, Nottingham Trent University (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Engaging and Supporting Commuter Students

  • Discussing how the University of Worcester implemented an outstanding retention strategy in coordination with their access inclusion projects to expand their widening participation programme
  • Understanding how the Access and Retention Strategy Group ensure that the University of Worcester is effectively promoting Higher Education to under-represented groups
  • Exploring the importance of ensuring student retention when creating an effective widening participation scheme
  • Sharing the lessons learned from the University of Worcester’s retention strategy and understanding what made the scheme so successful

Ross Renton, Pro Vice Chancellor Students, University of Worcester (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Developing Effective Student Engagement Practices to Improve Retention Rates

  • Understanding how embedding peer and self- assessments in to curricula can increase student engagement
  • Establishing a wider range of club and societies to increase student engagement across the university, and ensuring joining fees aren’t prohibitive to lower socio-economic backgrounds
  • Communicating how detrimental term time working can be to student studies and how to keep students that have to work engaged
  • Sharing the lessons learned from St Mary’s University’s implementation of the Student Retention, Engagement and Success Strategy (SERS)

Jane Chambers, Head of Department – Secondary, St Mary’s University, Twickenham (invited)  


Closing Keynote: Understanding the Challenges Facing the Independent Higher Education Sector in Relation to Student Retention

  • Exploring the challenges facing the independent HE sector including having a higher rate of students who are considered to have a higher risk of dropping out
  • Understanding how accelerated degrees may benefit underprivileged students and lead to higher retention rates for independent higher education institutions as a result of a reduction in tuition fees
  • Highlighting how universities can encourage further student engagement with support services to reduce drop out rates
  • Sharing guidance on how policies and procedures to increase student retention for independent higher education providers can be applied to the wider higher education sector

Alexander Proudfoot, Chief Executive, Independent HE (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change 

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