Retaining students and supporting transition to Higher Education are key issues facing many Higher Education institutions. The recent study on progression in Irish Higher Education conducted by the HEA found that an average of 15% of new undergraduate entrants failed to progress into the second year of their programme. (HEA, 2010). In Dublin Business School, a private higher education institution, retention and progression of first year undergraduate Arts students was highlighted as an area of concern. In response to this, we identified two areas which could address retention and progression of first year undergraduates: induction & creating a first year experience.
Our approach was informed by research from the fields of Education, for example research conducted by Cuseo (2002) on the roots of attrition and Tinto’s (1987) US based research which concluded that “students who do not feel that they belong both academically and socially are likely to leave”, and the fields of Social/Organisational Psychology and Identity Studies. Finally the University of Ulster’s Student Transition and Retention project provided us with concrete guidelines for changing induction and our approach to first year students to promote student success. This paper will outline how we introduced a first year approach designed to improve retention and progression and ease the transition to higher education for first year undergraduate Arts students in Dublin Business School. Our first year approach included an enhanced induction, a student mentor system, increased student academic and personal support.