What is the Initative?
The Office for Students-funded Catalyst project supports Universities in themed projects of innovation in Higher Education. Our project, in collaboration with Universities of Lincoln, Coventry and Manchester Metropolitan, shares an overall Office for Students led aim to address barriers to student success. Flying Start is one of the initiatives instigated by the University of Huddersfield through the project entitled ‘Intervention for Success’ (I4S), with a specific focus on students who live, study and travel to University from the family home.
Flying Start provides an immersive, educational experience for new first year undergraduate students that is active, engaging and subject specific. It builds on existing research which identifies social and academic engagement between peers and with staff as significant for retention, achievement and belonging (for example, Tinto, 1993; Thomas, 2012; Braxton et al, 2014; Dwyer,2017), ultimately aiming to close differential achievement and reduce attrition.
Early indications, following the first student surveys and tutor responses (2017) conclude by showing significantly positive effects in areas of engagement, self-confidence and belongingness, especially for the male students, and a stronger sense of having built positive relationships with peers and staff compared to non-Flying Start courses.
Why is it Needed?
The University of Huddersfield has over 50% of its students living and studying from home with a high proportion of these students in widening participation categories. For these students, withdrawal can have a particularly damaging impact, both personally and financially. Non-continuation is also costly for institutions with retention and achievement data being scrutinised by Universities, in line with the requirements of the Teaching Excellence Framework. Like many universities, our most ‘at risk’ students include combinations of student characteristics, for instance males studying and living at home, BAME students or those entering HE with low UCAS tariffs, BTEC or non-standard qualifications. These characteristics are recognised across the country by most universities. This project has enabled the use of central student data to identify these characteristics and recognise how they are spread, or cluster, across the university. Universities, schools/faculties and courses are made up of different combinations of potentially at-risk students and identifying these has been important.