Student success and progression

Student success, and progression to employment or postgraduate study are important aspects of access because the full benefits of higher education are not realised simply by enrolling on a course, but through successful outcomes.

Retention in English higher education is generally high compared to other OECD countries. However, retention rates vary across the sector.

Where your assessment of your performance indicates that you are very successful at recruiting students from under-represented groups but your student success or progression rates for these students are relatively low, we expect you to invest appropriately in measures to address this, based on the evidence in the assessment of your performance.

We take a broad view of student success and progression, including activities to improve academic success and employability, for example initiatives that help under-represented students access placement years, or a year abroad. You could include expenditure on advice or funding for internships in professions where social mobility is low, as this could make undergraduate courses more appealing to disadvantaged groups by providing clearer pathways to jobs after graduation.

You are free to design the detail of your student success and progression work, building on what works best. You should ensure that monitoring and evaluation processes are built into your student success and progression activities. 

Related guidance and resources

‘OFFA-countable’ expenditure

Postgraduates

Setting your access agreement strategy

What should you invest in?

Disaggregating access, success and progression expenditure

HEFCE, Differences in degree outcomes: key findings, 2014 

The Higher Education Academy’s Widening Access, Student Retention and Success National Archive hosts publications produced by a number of national programmes to widen access and student retention and success in order to ensure they remain available to the HE community.

National Audit Office, Staying the course: the retention of students in higher education, 2007 

Public Accounts Committee, Staying the course: the retention of students in higher education: Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, 2008 

HEFCE/Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: final report from the What works? Student retention and success programme, 2012. This report shows the results of research into approaches taken by universities and colleges to improve student retention and success. It describes a number of case studies and research conclusions.

Action on Access produces a series of ‘retention bulletins’ discussing this area of work and has also published a briefing, Social mobility through higher education: promoting the success of all students. Its publication Widening participation and disability – disability focus guide explores student success issues relating specifically to disabled students.

The national strategy for access and student success