The First Year Experience Strategy
The First Year Experience Strategy is the University of New England’s response to strategically managing the multi-faceted issue of student transition and success in the critical first year
The First Year Experience Strategy demonstrates the University of New England’s (UNE) approach to managing HEPPP funding to achieve sustainable positive outcomes. UNE’s students strongly represent regional and remote and LSES backgrounds and UNE has extensive experience in providing relevant interventions and programs for its diverse student population. Student transition and success in the critical first year has provided the focus for development of our First Year Experience Strategy, initiated in 2012.
The First Year Experience Strategy was designed to support the successful transition from commencing to progressing student, and recognises the factors that impact on students who predominately come from regional and remote and LSES backgrounds. A First Year Experience Committee has guided the development of a number of interlinked activities. This university-wide committee reports to the Academic Board’s Teaching and Learning Committee, and its membership is open to all interested staff. Through this framework a number of interlinked HEPPP-funded programs have been created.
The three initial projects are:
- Informal Learning Spaces
The aim is to ensure that students can access additional learning support as required, in purpose-built surroundings. The spaces are currently under construction and will deliver ‘ hang-out’ spaces for first year students, informal and collaborative learning programs, and ‘just-in-time’ assistance for students
- First Year Experience Co-ordinators
This project creates academic roles which foster best practice in First Year Experience Programs. Based in each school, these staff report to the First Year Experience Committee and work together to provide support and co-ordination of first year experience activities. They are collaboratively developing a culture of first year excellence, responding to the needs of rural, remote and LSES students. As the academic face of first year teaching and learning they are instrumental in promoting ideas for first year improvements.
- Vice Chancellor’s Scholars
The Vice Chancellor’s Scholars program celebrates the achievements of our most academically gifted students and rewards them by providing unique opportunities for academic and professional development. The objective behind this program is to provide a well-publicised incentive to all students to aspire to achieve outstanding academic results. It is a whole-of-university program provisioned to identify high achieving first year students and provide opportunities directed at their needs.
This strategy is fully funded through HEPPP funding
The First Year Experience Strategy is a work in progress. Measurement of its success will be iterative and include:
- measurement of collaboration and the ability of cross-functional areas and disciplines to address the needs of our first year cohorts: early indicators are that this is being achieved
- at a program level, participation data will be used to measure the fitness for purpose of both spaces and student support activities
- instructional design improvements via the First Year Experience Co-ordinators network and a demonstrated emphasis on the science of teaching and learning as it relates to first year students from regional and remote backgrounds will be further measured by student evaluations and tracking of progression rates.
The success of strategically using HEPPP funds to change the culture of institution–student interactivity will drive the future deployment of funds at UNE. The First Year Experience Strategy provides a watching brief for sustainable programs and interventions.
This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.