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Student Retention and Success Symposium 2022: 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 predicted 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?

Book your place

Date: 8 December 2022
Venue: theStudio, Leeds

Book your place
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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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Call for contributions

Contributions are invited from staff in teaching and learning, professional services and strategic roles, exploring both large and smaller scale approaches to the above themes, in the following formats:

  • Presentations and Case studies (15mins + 5mins Q&A)
  • Workshops (40mins)
  • Lightning Talks (5mins + 5mins Q&A)

Oral Presentations should be 15 minutes in length and will be followed by 5 minutes of Q&A with delegates. This session type should be selected if your proposed session is a report/review of a project undertaken within your institution and should offer guidance on how others can replicate similar projects within their own institutions. Your session should include a PPT presentation or visual stimulus to accompany your talk.

Case studies should be 15 minutes in length and will be followed by 5 minutes of Q&A. Case studies could focus on proposals or frameworks to address the issue of student poverty.

Workshops should be 40 minutes in length and should offer practical or 'how to' guidance on implementing practice. These should allow 10-15 minutes for a presentation element that sets the scene, and 25-30 minutes of interactive exercises with the delegates.

Lightning Talks should be a 5-minute presentation, with or without PPT slides (or alternative visual stimulus) and can address any topic relating to the symposium themes.

We would be especially keen to receive staff-student submissions, featuring staff and students facilitating papers or workshops together.

Reviewing criteria

All submissions will be reviewed according to the following criteria.

  • anticipated interest;
  • clarity of the proposal;
  • implications of the findings for the learning and teaching community;
  • originality of the work being presented
  • relevance to the symposium themes;
  • potential for delegates to be actively engaged

Submission deadline

The deadline for submissions is: Monday 17 October 2022 at 17:00.

Submit your proposal here

Who is delivering the event?

Dr Helen Webster

Senior Advisor, Student Success
Advance HE
Dr Helen Webster
Dr Helen Webster joined Advance HE in 2022, from a background in university Student Services specialising in learning and academic skills development. As Senior Adviser for Student Success, she works across a range of areas including access, retention, attainment and progression with a focus on wellbeing and inclusion.