Promoting Academic Success and Well-being: Enhancing Regional Student Engagement, Success and Wellbeing through the use of Innovative Early Intervention Strategies
Lead University: University of South Australia
Lead Researcher: Sharron King
Research Team: Sharron King, Helen Stallman, Tanya Weiler, Jane Kehrwald and Tamra Ulpen
Year Funded: 2016
Funding Received: $293,614
A suite of interconnected early intervention resources was developed and implemented to improve the engagement, success and wellbeing of low SES students studying at regional universities. This included an online training package for regional staff to deliver support services related to academic literacies and wellbeing. A nationally significant Early Intervention Strategy was produced, as well as recommendations for institutions; staff; students; policy; and research.
- The project had three main objectives:
- Develop and implement a suite of interconnected resources to improve the engagement, retention, success, completion and wellbeing of low socioeconomic status (SES) students studying at regional universities, or at universities committed to regional activity.
- Develop a web resource that will provide a training package for regional staff to deliver support services related to academic literacies and wellbeing.
- Develop a nationally significant teaching, learning and wellbeing early intervention strategy for regional low SES students.
- For the first objective, the following steps were taken:
- Eight modules were developed — four on planning for academic success; and four on health and wellbeing.
- Two workshops were developed — one on mindfulness; and one on grit and resilience.
- For the second objective:
- A website was developed and hosted by the Healthy Universities website: http://healthyuniversities.org/projects/regionalstudent-success-wellbeing
- A staff training package was developed which included seven modules.
- For the third objective, an Early Intervention Strategy was developed.
- The project led to a number of insights and implementable outcomes that will be continued at the University of South Australia which delivers programs to over 31,900 students across four regional campuses as well as metropolitan campuses.
- The report produced four sets of recommendations for institutions; teaching and professional staff; future regional students; and for future policy and research, which included:
- Recommendations for institutions:
- Expand university outreach into regional communities and schools.
- Embed strategies to support health and wellbeing in a university-wide approach.
- Ensure institutional communications are tailored to meet regional students’ needs.
- Recognise regional students as not being one homogenous group, and reflect diverse backgrounds across marketing and communications.
- Encourage the involvement of family members in regional students’ transitions to university.
- Promote financial services and supports, such as scholarships, and provide clear information regarding timelines and processes on how to apply for government allowances.
- Recommendations for teaching and professional staff:
- Ensure there are opportunities in the formal curriculum to embed academic literacy skills and wellbeing knowledge and skills for students in their first year to support their transition to university.
- Ensure policies and procedures are reviewed and regular campaigns are held to raise awareness of student wellbeing.
- Promote student support services within the curriculum and normalise “help seeking”.
- Recommendations for future regional students:
- Find out as much as you can about university before commencement by attending open days, orientation week and information sessions.
- Utilise the resources at your disposal — teachers; fellow students; and study resources.
- Make connections with fellow students.
- Engage family and friends in your study.
- Recommendations for institutions:
- Recommendations for future policy and research:
- There is a need for universities to conduct ongoing trials and longitudinal evaluation of wellbeing programs to monitor actual behaviour changes and service use following the intervention.
- The mental health of university students has largely been absent at a government policy level; a revised Australian government higher education policy should be developed that includes a response to university student wellbeing.
- Regional schools and universities need more support. This includes strategies to increase the representation of regional students in higher education, and promoting greater support for those students transitioning between secondary and tertiary education.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.