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Student Retention and Success Symposium: The Cost of Student Poverty

A presenter-led event to learn, discuss and share latest practices in student retention and success.

This symposium will provide an open and supportive environment within which to share and discuss contemporary practice and initiatives. The event will include a keynote speaker alongside participant-led workshops and presentations.

The issue of student poverty is as old as universities themselves, but the cost of living crisis will have far-reaching implications for student retention and success. The rising costs of accommodation, fuel and food are already a concern for many students, and will potentially have a detrimental impact on all aspects of their learning and wider student experience. The result may be poorer outcomes for many, and for some, may mean that they cannot continue their studies at all.

Students’ fundamental needs (food, shelter and transport) must be met to ensure their physical, mental and social wellbeing, which is in turn crucial for students to attain their educational potential. Solutions to this problem will be complex and multifaceted; this symposium aims to explore the issue holistically from all perspectives to inform whole-university approaches to tackling student poverty. To stimulate creative, responsive solutions and insightful dialogue, we welcome exploratory workshops and sharing of planned initiatives and work in progress as well as case studies of established and evaluated good practice. 

The symposium will address the following themes:

  • Engagement: Students who are stressed about their finances and basic needs, and don’t have adequate study space or resources can’t learn well. How might an inclusive, trauma- and evidence-informed awareness of students’ circumstances be embedded into our teaching, learning and assessment, as well as the extra-curricular activities which constitute the student experience? How can we ensure that targeted interventions are meaningful and don’t pose an additional burden on those least able to afford it?
  • The Campus: What is the role of the campus in student poverty? The need to commute to campus (or other locations) may constitute an extra financial pressure, but equally the campus may offer an equalising space in which the effects of digital, food or fuel poverty might be mitigated. How can we use campus spaces from the classroom to the canteen to alleviate the impact of poverty? How do we integrate digital spaces in an inclusive way?
  • Systems, Services and Processes: How might we need to transform our services, processes and systems to accommodate the pressures students are under with flexibility and compassion? Students experiencing poverty and associated issues might need anything from hardship funds, personal extenuating circumstances and suspending their studies, to support services such as finance advice, counselling and flexible accommodation. How might we rethink our provision to be fit for purpose in the current context, and ensure that students access and receive appropriate help in a timely fashion?
  • Understanding our students: The cost of living crisis may affect different parts of our student body in different ways and to different degrees. How do we ensure that our understanding of students’ experiences and needs is accurate, and work with them to ensure that our provision is proactive and responsive?

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Date: 1 June 2023

Venue: theStudio, Leeds

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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.


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Abstracts -Student Retention and Success Symposium

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Who is delivering the event?


Lead Consultant (Learning and Teaching)
Advance HE
Dr Kay Hack
Dr Kay Hack (PFHEA) is the Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching) for Advance-HE. Her role includes developing, managing and promoting excellence in teaching and learning, both generally and within STEM disciplines. She delivers a range of services to the HE sector, including supporting strategic leadership and change in HEIs and building and maintaining strong relationships with the STEM community, PSRBs, government and other organisations and individuals.


Professor for Higher Education, Learning and Teaching
Leeds Trinity University
Catherine O'Connor
Professor Catherine O’Connor is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Experience at Leeds Trinity University.

Higher Education Consultant
Advance HE
Michelle Morgan
Dr Michelle Morgan is a national and internationally recognised Student Experience Transitions Specialist across all levels of study and is extensively published in the area. She is currently Dean of Students at the University of East London. Michelle is a Principal Fellow of the HEA, Fellow of the AUA , an elected council member of UKCGE and Student Minds Mental Health Charter Assessor. During her varied career, Michelle has been a faculty manager, lecturer, researcher and academic manager. She describes herself as a ‘Third Space Integrated Student Experience Practitioner’ who develops initiatives based on pragmatic and practical research. Michelle has over 50 publications and has presented over 100 national and international conference papers (including 58 keynotes and 35 invited papers). She has developed a free portal for staff which provides a range of information and links for anyone interested in improving the student experience in higher education. 

Michelle was creator and PI/Project Lead of an innovative, £2.7 million, 11 university collaborative HEFCE grant, looking at the study expectations and attitudes of postgraduate taught (PGT) students. The project report received praise from across the sector including UKCGE, OFFA, the HEA and the Engineering Professor’s Council.

Director of Student and Graduate Success
University of East Anglia
Becky Price
Becky Price is Director of Student and Graduate Success and the University of East Anglia.

This role oversees teams at UEA focused on the Holistic Student Experience, Widening Access and Participation, Careers Support and Advice and Student voice and insight. Overall, it focuses on UEA’s cross institutional strategy and approach to ensuring all we do is designed to support student and graduate success for all students.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Project Officer
University of Leeds
Susan Preston
Susan Preston is an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Project Officer at the University of Leeds. As a Geography undergraduate, Susan founded the Leeds University Commuters’ Society, which advocates for increased inclusivity for commuter/living at home students and campaigned for a Commuters’ Lounge. Susan wrote their dissertation on the sense of belonging and social engagement of commuter students.
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Event sponsor

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