NPP Projects

Improving the Transition and Retention of Regional Students from Low Socio-economic Backgrounds: A ‘5 Ps’ Approach

Lead University: CQUniversity

Lead Researcher: Denise Wood

Research Team: Denise Wood, Mary McLeod, Robyn Bailey, Gillian Gray-Ganter, Liam Downing, Amy Barnhouse, Fiona Sunderland, Kate Sheppard, Debbie Flashman and Veronica Sanmarco

Year Funded: 2016

Funding Received: $179,091


This project identified strategies to support regional students from low SES backgrounds during their transition into university, to address persistently high levels of attrition. A pre-commencement framework and online system were developed enabling students to self-assess their readiness for their chosen higher education program; prepare for study; and increase awareness of the services available to help them meet the requirements of their chosen program.

Project outline

  • The project objective was to build an evidence base regarding strategies to improve the success and outcomes of regional students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds by:
    • investigating the extent to which universities have strategies in place to support regional, low SES students
    • exploring whether regional low SES students are prepared for, and have a realistic understanding of, the requirements of the higher education programs into which they are enrolling
    • identifying the factors that contribute to regional, low SES students being unable to meet the requirements of a higher education program
    • advising students of the appropriate steps to follow to meet a higher education program’s requirements
    • developing a framework and online system enabling students to self-assess their readiness for their chosen program; prepare for study; and increase awareness of the services available to help them meet the requirements of their chosen program of studies
    • inform institutional policy and the implementation of the approach at other higher education institutions.
  • The steps in the project included:
    • The 5 Ps framework was developed (Profile; Preparedness; Promise Process; and Progress) and provided the foundation for review of each partner’s university policies, procedures and programs.
    • Each partner university developed detailed inherent requirements for each of the programs/courses addressed in the study.
    • Researchers interviewed transitioning first-year students prior to enrolment to determine how well prepared they were for university study, identify students who might experience difficulty in meeting inherent and course requirements and inform students of services available to support them.
    • Students were interviewed again at the end of term to explore their experiences throughout the term and to determine the extent to which they felt the transition interview was helpful and discuss their future study plans.
    • Students who did not participate in the pre-enrolment interviews were also interviewed at the end of term to identify how well prepared they felt they were for study at the start of term and determine if they felt that a pre-enrolment interview might have been helpful.
    • A total of 99 undergraduates participated in the research, with a total of 132 interviews undertaken.

Key findings

  • Key findings from the research included:
    • Documented evidence of the value of the framework and the benefits of the 5Ps approach adopted in the pre-commencement interviews, which the majority of participants reported to be beneficial in helping them to prepare for their studies.
    • The 5Ps framework, which provided the foundation for the development of an Intelligent Agent live chat system that enables students to self-assess their readiness for study, and triages those identified as “at risk”.
    • Five case studies completed by partner universities documenting their experience of the pre-commencement interview approach.
    • Seven webinars conducted and recorded.
    • A roundtable discussion held in November 2017 and a national forum conducted in February 2018. Four universities have since indicated they are interested in trialing in this approach in their own contexts.
    • Several publications are in progress.
  • In addition, other implementable outcomes included:
    • CQUniversity has implemented the findings through a university-wide strategic initiatives project, adopting the 5Ps framework as the basis for its new student participation and retention strategy.
    • The participating universities have adopted the inherent requirements developed through the project.
    • Another of the partner universities is planning to trial the approach more broadly across other disciplinary fields in 2018.
    • The online self-assessment tool has been designed to be adopted in any university context. Several universities have indicated an interest in the use of such a tool to support their transitioning students.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.

Accessible version of report unavailable.

Full report available here:

Posted 15 October 2018