NPP Projects

Meeting Great Expectations: Understanding the Needs of Equity Group Students Before They Commence University

Lead University: Victoria University

Lead Researcher: Susan Young

Research Team: Susan Young

Year Funded: 2014

Funding Received: $46,400

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6988796.v1



A student survey was administered to equity group students prior to university enrolment, focusing on life and family balance; expectations; work; effort; teachers; study skills; and commitment. Survey data informed VU support services, enabling them to identify students at risk of disengagement with study at a pre-census junction, and to provide tailored support and resources at timely intervals throughout the first year of study.

Project Outline

  • The project had five objectives to support equity students at Victoria University (VU):
    • provide VU with a clear understanding of equity students overall expectations for studying at the University
    • give VU a clear understanding of equity students’ degrees of readiness for tertiary study, including: their level of academic experience and preparedness; their work-life-study balance; and level of English proficiency.
    • use survey data to inform VU support services, enabling them to provide tailored bundles of support and resources, both academic and non-academic, at timely intervals throughout the first year of study
    • ensure equity group students are better equipped to complete their studies successfully as a result of the targeted supports and interventions in the program
    • provide support for equity students, especially those less prepared, to enrol in tertiary education by informing them immediately after their offer of a place to study that there are proactive suites of programs in place that will provide effective and timely interventions to ensure their success.
  • A Student Readiness and Expectations Survey was developed around seven areas: life and family balance; expectations; work; effort; teachers; study skills; and commitment.
  • Approximately 24 per cent of VU undergraduates are from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, 10 per cent come from a non-English speaking background, and five per cent are students with disability.

Key Findings

  • The survey has highlighted an under-researched area (expectations and readiness) — the in-between space inhabited by commencing students prior to the start of their classes.
  • The survey provided a tool for students to verbalise their expectations and degree of readiness, and for the University to measure this as well as to be able to directly assist students deemed to be at risk as a result of their responses.
  • The process of designing and developing the survey went through a number of changes, but VU envisaged firmer outcomes in terms of matching the identification of at-risk factors and the provision of timely support. This takes two forms: building expectations among students who take the survey; and targeted and personalised face-to-face conversations with at risk students through the Student Link process (a monitoring system of student engagement).
  • VU was considering ways of improving participation in the survey among commencing students.
  • The Survey showed potential to identify students at risk of disengaging with their studies at a critical early pre-census junction. The provision of prompt feedback to students by way of a ‘bundle of support’ filled a gap in the overall whole-of-university retention strategy.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 7 June 2018