Stay with the programme: describing the evolving retention strategy of AIT's Faculty of Business & Hospitality

Ross, Owen, Langan, Eoin and Doyle, Brendan (2016) Stay with the programme: describing the evolving retention strategy of AIT's Faculty of Business & Hospitality. ISSN 1920-2016


Alarmed by high levels of first year student attrition (28.5%) and non-progression rates of over 30% on five of the school’s first year programmes, in the academic year 2012-13 the new management team of the AIT Faculty of Business & Hospitality undertook to interview every first year student who failed any module from their semester 1 sitting. Following on from what was often a brutally honest set of exchanges it emerged that students who had, the previous year, averaged two and half to three hours study daily, were now devoting less than half an hour daily to their studies.
The Faculty Management response, supported and delivered by all the academic staff in the school, was to promote a “habit-forming” initiative to be engaged in by every first year student at the start of the 2013-14 academic year. This initiative required students to start working from their very first day in the AIT Faculty of Business & Hospitality. In order to enhance student engagement, the traditional induction format was augmented by giving every student an assignment to be completed within two weeks. Any student failing this assignment, or not submitting, was immediately called to a meeting with their Head of Department.
The initial results varied between programmes. One programme returned the best set of student results in the programme’s history. Another programme had students leave, due to increased stress levels, associated with the initial assignment. Across the school, the statistics were encouraging, showing an
increase in the number of students attempting their exams. The overall pass rate improved. The major statistical improvement was seen in a reduction in the non-progression rate to 2nd year by 13.7% the following year 2013-14. This result was maintained in 2014-15.
Overall the “habit-forming” initiative was deemed successful in increasing levels of student engagement and through improved progression rates. The model was further enhanced for the 2014-15 academic year to include additional supports for the first years with their first assignment. A further measure incorporated their second assignment being announced in advance of their first assignment deadline. Further revisions have been implemented during the current and ongoing programmatic review to ensure every student has an assignment at all times and every semester requires them to work from the outset.
Students who traditionally are not strong enough to attend university but attend institutions like AIT Faculty of Business & Hospitality might need to be given a more challenging introduction to their life as a third level student. Easing the student transition by getting students into the habit of working consistently is a vital ingredient that will contribute to their success.

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