Student experience


Retaining students until they complete their qualifications is one of the main aims of many higher education institutions. Retention of students is also looked at from different perspectives in the literature. This small, exploratory, narrative enquiry research looks into the experiences of twenty-one domestic students during their first year and a half of a three-year bachelor’s degree at a New Zealand university. The same researcher conducted all the interviews, which were recorded, transcribed and imported to Nvivo for thematic analysis. The researcher attempted to draw comparisons between the students who withdrew from the university within the first year and a half and those who did not in order to gain a deeper understanding of the institutional factors which may be involved in retention of students. Four main themes were found in the interview data, relating to expectations for student effort, guidance provided by instructors, feedback provided on assignments and consistency, which seemed to be significant to the university experience for many students.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Preparing students for the workload involved in university study while in secondary school, and during first-year orientation sessions and courses may increase retention.
  2. Universities should set expectations regarding how much information is shared with students regarding the content of examinations.
  3. Providing assessment criteria to students before submitting assignments, and individualized feedback after submitting assignments may increase retention.
  4. Lecturers and tutors should discuss course-level and university-level expectations, course content and assessment criteria to improve consistency of information obtained by students, which may increase retention.
  5. Always focussing on effort and improvement factors, rather than mentioning the level at which courses are pitched may increase students' academic self-efficacy.