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Supporting students’ positive withdrawal

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting students’ positive withdrawal"— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting students’ positive withdrawal
Katrina Castle, Edinburgh Napier University - Jonathan Staal, Abertay University -

2 Two student bodies: Edinburgh Napier:
Student population: UG: 12,008; TPG: 2,294; RPG: 170. Age on entry: 16-20: 31%; 21-24: 34%; 25+: 35%. Gender balance: Female: 55%; Male: 45%. Discipline mix: Business: 35%; Creative Industries: 9%; Computing: 7%; Engineering: 11%; Science: 8%; Social Science: 4%; Nursing: 19%; Customised Programme: 7%. Fees status: 70% home; 12% EU; 18% overseas. Disability: No disability: 93%; Dyslexia: 4%; Other: 3%. Abertay: Student population: UG: 3,327; TPG: 366; RPG: 90. Age on entry: 16-20: 60%; 21-24: 21%; 25+: 19%. Gender balance: Female: 51%; Male: 49%. Discipline mix: Business: 23%; Computing: 25%; Science: 17%; Social Science: 30%; Nursing: 5%. Fees status: 82% home; 15% EU; 3% overseas. Disability: No disability: 93%; Dyslexia: 3%; Other: 4%.

3 Two Student Bodies (data from UG 2007/08 cohort)
Student Status

4 Two Student Bodies (data from UG 2007/08 cohort)
Student Age Student Gender

5 Discipline Mix

6 Two Student Bodies (data from UG 2007/08 cohort)
Fee Status Disclosed Disability

7 Common reasons for withdrawal:
General: Funding. Relationships. Health. Homesickness. Isolated / lonely. Change of plans. Poor results. Study load. Supervision problems. Wrong course. Other reasons. (UNE 2006). Edinburgh Napier: Career change (38%). Course not as expected (35%). Family / personal issue (17%). Academic failure (14%). Health (14%). Study Skills (13%). Funding (9%). Abertay: Academic failure (36%). Personal issues - various (11%). Left with an intermediate award (7%). Non-attendance (7%). Unsuited to course (4%). Health reasons (4%). Funding (4%).

8 Existing Support for Students Considering Withdrawal
Abertay Module / programme tutors. Personal tutors. Student Services, including academic support advice. Portal-based guidance to suspension / withdrawal procedures. Edinburgh Napier Programme Management Teams. Personal Development Tutors. Faculty based Academic Support Advisers. Student Affairs based Student Advisers. “What am I doing here?” leaflets.

9 Supporting students to consider withdrawal as a positive step forward:
Policy context: Widening participation: retention and progression rates poorest among students from low-participation neighbourhoods (SFC 2005). Social circumstances: students with the greatest external constraints and the least choice of what, where and how they study are more likely to withdraw from their course (SFC 2007). Lifelong learning: students able to identify positive aspects of their withdrawal from university felt: In control of their situation when taking a well thought-through decision to leave their course. Better able to arrive at clearer ideas of their short to medium-term future. Better prepared to return to higher education in the future (Quinn et al 2005).

10 University of New England: Don’t drop out.

11 Scotland: Don’t drop out – a model?

12 A generic web resource to support student withdrawal:
Rationale: Enough similarities between institutions to compensate differences to make collaboration possible. Shortfall in adequate provision. Benefits of a support website being not specific to / associated with a single institution, especially as the institution might be part (/all) of the problem. Efficient pooling of resources.

13 How might we develop such a website together?
Creative Commons in Education licence so no individual institutional claim to IP. Generic core for each institution to adapt and host locally or single, stand-alone comprehensive entity, with its own branding or as part of a larger resource, e.g. Jorum. How could students become part of the site as well as passive / semi-active users, e.g. user-generated content and/or wiki-format? Could some partners institutions contribute content and others serve as ‘critical friends’ to review development? What about medium to long-term maintenance and growth to sustain the initiative? Where’s the money coming from?

14 Break-out group discussion questions:
What diversity issues would a website supporting students considering withdrawing from their course need to address? How to support critical self-reflection without risking reinforcing negative patterns of thought / behaviour? How to avoid a ‘deficit’ approach that blames the student (different to supporting them to acknowledge an appropriate share of responsibility)? How do we make this attractive to those who just disappear? Should we aim to produce a stand-alone site that any institution could link to from their own pages or a generic core of materials that institutions could then tailor and embed in their own pages? How best to tie in with each institution’s support systems (each with their own titles and terminology)? How best to tie in meaningfully with local, regional and national sources of external support, e.g. Breathing Space, CABx, Shelter? Might your institution be interested in taking the idea forward and, if so, who would be best to contact?

15 References: Quinn, J., Thomas, L., Slack, K., Casey, L. Thexton, W. and Noble, J From life crisis to lifelong learning: rethinking working class ‘drop-out’ from university. UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Scottish Funding Council Choosing to learn, learning to choose. Scotland: SFC. Scottish Funding Council Learning for all: the report of the SFEFC/SHEFC widening participation review group. Scotland: SFC. UNE Don’t drop out. [online]. University of New England. Available from: [Accessed 20 May 2008].

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