Financial support

What is it? Financial support includes grants, bursaries, scholarships and fee-waivers. When offered after entry to HE, it is designed to help students succeed on-course by alleviating the financial costs of studying.

Evidence? There is a high-quality body of evidence that finds financial support can have a positive impact on retention/completion in HE. However, most of the existing research comes from the USA and more evidence is needed on the impact of financial support in a UK context.

Should HEPs use financial support to improve student success? There is a reasonable evidence base to support the use of needs-based grants to promote retention/completion. There is less strong evidence that this approach can improve attainment/degree classification. This support should be need-based (i.e. based on financial background) rather than merit-based (i.e. based on prior attainment).

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Mentoring, counselling, coaching and role models

What is it? Mentoring, counselling, coaching and advising all involve a relationship between two individuals where a more experienced person provides support to a less experienced individual. This normally includes some combination of psychology/emotional support, course/career support, academic skills support, and acting as a role model.

Evidence? There is evidence from the UK to suggest that programmes involving mentoring, counselling, coaching and advising are associated with better outcomes for students in terms of attainment and retention/completion. However, the research is not ‘causal’; in other words, it can’t tell us definitively that the programmes are effective. There is some mixed evidence of impact from other countries.

Should HEPs run mentoring/counselling/coaching/advising programmes to support student success? The existing evidence suggests that mentoring, counselling, coaching and advising approaches differ substantially from programme to programme, for example in terms of focus/goals, intensity, duration and the target population. Given these are intensive interventions (both in terms of staff and student time) there is strong case for seeking more information on the efficacy versus other less intensive approaches. We recommend that HE providers seek to measure the effect of these programmes, and identify the most effective features, at a local level.

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Programmes of student support

What is it? Programmes of student support refers to sustained programmes of engagement (for example, via course modules or events) designed to improve retention and success among students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

Evidence? Currently we do not have enough evidence on the effectiveness of these programmes. Most of the existing evidence compares outcomes for students who have participated in such programmes with comparator groups of students who have not. Although these studies all suggest a positive correlation between participation and retention/competition, they cannot tell us for sure that the programmes are having the desired impact or the size of this effect.

Should HEPs run programmes of post-entry support to improve student success? Since these programmes tend to be large-scale, high-cost interventions, providers should seek to embed evaluation to understand the extent to which they impact student outcomes– see the TASO evaluation guidance for more information on how to do this. Providers should also seek to build an understanding of which elements are most effective.

Explore the evidence on programmes of student support