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Student Retention and Success Symposium 2022: Impact of flexibility in policies and practice on student retention

County / Region
United Kingdom
Position on the Pathway
Excellence in practice
Fellowship Category
All Fellowship Categories
Event Type
Virtual Symposia
Teaching and Learning
Start Date
End Date
1 day
Institution Type
Higher Education and Further Education
Price From


Over the last 18 months, the HE sector has been involved in a mass participation experiment. Unfortunately, there were changes in the input variables, with entry to university based primarily on teacher-assessed grades; changes in the teaching and learning process with the majority of teaching taking place physically distant from the campus, and changes to the output measures with no detriment policies and changes to assessment instruments.

Although robust, quantitative evaluation of all these changes will be a challenge, it is important that we reflect on the impact of flexibility in policies and practice on student retention and success and attempt to unpick the factors that have impacted on areas such as awarding gaps, student engagement and attainment and ask some key questions so that we can learn from this experience and retain policies and practices that have genuine benefits:

  • Many students started university following disruption in their secondary education. Research from the Sutton Trust suggests that over half of new students are worried about starting university and do not feel prepared for higher education. How have we recognised these diverse experiences and ensured that all students have had the opportunity to develop their academic skills to compensate for possible gaps in their secondary education? How have prior learning and assessment experiences been considered in providing support for new students?
  • What approaches to induction for new and returning students were effective at providing a welcoming introduction to higher education? What measures have been put in place to protect staff and students’ mental and physical health and wellbeing? How can we ensure that all students and staff feel the campus is a safe place for them to study and work?
  • The lockdown has provided knowledge, skills and evidence around online learning – for both staff and students. Remote learning and teaching undoubtedly had a differential impact on the student body. Many students missed the social interaction and practical experiences that can be achieved through in-person teaching, whilst others, including disabled, mature, commuters and those with caring responsibilities welcomed the flexibility of the new modes of delivery. What has been the impact of online learning on the retention and success of all students? What can we learn from this to build flexible modes of delivery to enhance retention and reduce awarding gaps?
  • What has been the impact on retention or attainment of changes to assessment – instruments, modes of assessment, and no-detriment policies? Have gaps in students’ pre-university assessment experiences been identified and addressed? What changes to assessment policies and practices do you intend to keep?

Symposium aims

The aims of this symposium are to:

  • provide an open and supportive environment within which to share and discuss contemporary practice and initiatives in student retention and success; and
  • provide evidence-informed examples and ideas for university staff and students to address the challenges of attrition, retention and student success in higher education.
grow your skills new to leading excellence in practice combined

Who should attend?

Academics and teaching staff, professional services staff, managers, students, planners and those responsible for timetabling, and anyone working to support student retention and success.

Students are entitled to a 50% discount on the Symposium fee, please contact for more information.

Keynote speakers

Dr Liz Austen

Head of Evaluation and Research
Sheffield Hallam University
Dr Liz Austen
Dr Liz Austen leads institutional and sector wide research and evaluation in higher education as the Head of Evaluation and Research at Sheffield Hallam University and as an independent HE consultant.

Rebecca Hodgson

Rebecca Hodgson
Rebecca Hodgson is Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at Sheffield Hallam University, leading on teaching, learning, assessment and the student experience across a college of approximately 14,000 students.