The challenge of student retention–how early do universities spot students at risk

I’ve been chatting with Jon Ryder at XMPro in the UK, who has been working with British universities on projects for student engagement and retention. I’ve also been working with Microsoft Education partners in Australia on the same challenge, and their solutions which help universities and TAFEs identify students at risk, and then effectively manage student retention processes.

imageJon’s created a great summary infographic that shares some of the data he’s collected from a survey of over 100 universities in the UK, which includes some interesting insights that are likely mirrored here in Australia:

Most universities don’t know how ‘at risk’ students are being managed

This was a big surprise for me – that only 1 in 8 universities believe they have sufficient visibility as to how ‘at risk’ students cases are being managed. Despite 7 out of 10 respondents feeling that up to 20% of ‘at risk’ students are reversible and can be re-engaged.

4 out of 10 ‘at risk’ students are identified too late for the university to resolve the student’s issue(s)

The whole profile for the data set is:

  • 12% are identified early enough to make a difference
  • 47% are identified later than the university would ideally like, but soon enough to make a difference
  • 35% are identified too late to be able to resolve the problem
  • 6% are only identified when they actually tell the university that they are leaving

(I wonder if there was a category for ‘we only found out after the student had left’?)

The challenges of managing student retention

Jon’s survey found 3 top challenges that universities faced when managing ‘at risk’ students:

  1. Inability to communicate consistently and effectively with students due to the number of people involved in that student’s experience
  2. The sheer volume of students makes it difficult to effectively manage each individual case
  3. The university discovers the threat of attrition too late to be able to sufficiently address the underlying causes

S1 Consulting logoHere in Australia, one of our education partners that have been focusing on Student attrition and retention management is S1 Consulting. They have developed a model for managing the student lifecycle through a combination of effective analytics and a focused implementation of a CRM system to manage interventions through to retention.