Federation University Australia – Student Futures Program
The Student Futures Program (SFP) is a suite of initiatives that supports students through preparation for and transition to university, contributing to student retention and success. SFP is founded on peer support, with a large portion of HEPPP funding allocated to employing students as peer leaders. This means that not only does SFP support students directly, but also enables these student leaders to access convenient, reliable, paid work on their campus or from home to support themselves while studying. With many of these leaders being from equity groups themselves, this has a direct positive impact on their own learning journey.
The SFP is coordinated through the Centre for Learning Innovation and Professional Practice and works collaboratively with areas across the university including Faculties, Library, and Student Connect.
As a university with a high proportion of students from non-traditional backgrounds, Federation University Australia (FedUni) made the strategic decision to proactively develop SFP to offer holistic and coordinated academic preparation and learning support for students, and to further provide leadership and employment opportunities to student leaders. Based primarily on a peer support model, the initiative leverages successful students to support new students, creating a positive framework and successful mechanism for student-led support. The SFP challenges the deficit discourse model, focusing on using students’ successes to create a positive environment for student transition.
Activities and Progress
In 2013 the SFP brought together a range of existing initiatives and developed new services to ensure students were supported throughout their transition and academic journey. SFP now cohesively combines the following initiatives:
- FedReady — A one-week intensive preparation program that gives commencing students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a tertiary environment.
- FedReadyOnline — A facilitated two-week version of the FedReady preparation program.
- Mentoring — Leverages the experience of continuing students to guide new students. Every commencing student is allocated a mentor.
- Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) — Assists commencing students in historically difficult core first year subjects by providing weekly study sessions.
- Academic Skills and Knowledge (ASK) — Acts as a triage point, giving students online, phone and face-to-face access to advice from experienced student leaders.
- YourTutor — Provides out-of-hours online support on assignments and study techniques in an easily accessible manner.
The SFP has grown significantly to see successful rollout at FedUni’s new Churchill campus in 2014 and new Berwick campus in 2017. The SFP is aligned with the University’s Disability Action Plan, Reconciliation Action Plan, Social Inclusion Plan and the Student Retention and Success Plan.
SFP outcomes are clear:
- 100 per cent of the last cohort of FedReady graduate students (those completing the preparation program) would recommend it to their friends.
- Students who attend PASS are less likely to fail, have lower withdrawal rates, and receive a higher than average grade than those who do not attend.
- In 2016, over 1,000 students accessed ASK, with 80 per cent of all enquires resolved without referral.
- In 2016, YourTutor conducted 4,919 live tutorial sessions, and 3,195 essay reviews. Students gave very positive feedback on these interactions.
The positive impact of the HEPPP funded SFP stretches beyond the obvious benefits for students accessing the program components. Employing over 180 current, continuing students across all of its services, SFP enables these students to access convenient, reliable, paid work on their campus or from home to support themselves while studying.
Many of these SFP employees are themselves from equity groups, and report that they seek work within the program because of the direct positive impact it has had on their own learning journeys. Facilitation skills and leadership qualities are explicitly taught and developed in student leaders, enhancing their graduate attributes and increasing their graduate employment opportunities.
The SFP is woven into the fabric of FedUni. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Quality) is the University’s champion for this program, ensuring it has the highest level of institutional support.
This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.