Building Partnerships to Ease Transition and Avoid Attrition: Some Local Findings

Russell Brinkworth, Karen Burke Da Silva, Sharron King, Ann Luzeckyj, Benjamin McCann, Edward Palmer

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    A successful learning experience in higher education relies on an ongoing partnership between students and staff. At the core of any strong partnership lies trust in each party and a clear understanding of what can be expected from each other (e.g. Curzon-Hobson 2002). This latter aspect forms the core focus of the Student and Staff Expectations and Experiences (SSEE) Project, a tri-institutional project (University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University) that has been carried out since 2009. The SSEE has examined the expectations of students entering university from 2009 to 2012 and compares them with the actual experiences the students had. Over 18,000 students from the three institutions contributed to a series of surveys which were carried out in four stages: prior to Orientation week, post-Orientation week, and early first semester and late in the academic year. The study has clearly shown that students’ interactions with staff were not as expected. Differences in terms of availability, approachability, and friendliness were evident, with a particularly significant difference in the experience of having easy access to staff compared to students’ expectation. Feedback from staff was also significantly less than students expected, but otherwise students felt themselves more supported than anticipated, finding that their teachers provided all the materials they required. Students did find that they attended lectures less frequently than they had expected, engaged in outside/social activities less than they felt they needed to, had made fewer friends than they felt they needed, and found combining study and work more difficult than they had anticipated. Overall, students found themselves to be less capable than expected in their studies. This may be linked to the fact that students perceived that the standard of work and the level of independence required were different from that of high school. Students also found that they spent less time spent studying than they originally expected. The mismatch between students’ expectations and experiences has ramifications for their learning, satisfaction, retention and ultimately, their wellbeing. Survey results show that students who had more realistic expectations of university life appeared to have reduced stress, which in turn resulted in improved adaptation to the university environment. Thus a clear understanding of what the university experience will be like could allow students to be better prepared for university and also enable the universities to provide more appropriate support during the difficult early weeks. In this session, we will discuss these findings in greater detail via a combination of our ongoing qualitative and quantitative analysis. We will also make some recommendations on how the gap between expectation and experience can be reduced.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    EventERGA Conference 2012 - Partnerships -
    Duration: 19 Sept 2012 → …


    ConferenceERGA Conference 2012 - Partnerships
    Period19/09/12 → …


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