Providing student support is an essential part of a university’s role in ensuring that students enrol, stay and succeed at university. The relatively small size of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cohort in many institutions makes it possible to adopt an individually tailored case management approach to student support. This involves employing dedicated staff to manage the student relationship, including establishing contact with students, assessing their support needs, helping them to secure support and monitoring their progress.
10.1.1 Critical success factors
Critical success factors include:
- support staff maintain a one-to-one relationship with students throughout their studies
- support is holistic and meets the student’s personal and academic needs, including integration into university culture
- staff across the university are culturally competent, particularly those who provide academic support.
10.1.2 Key challenges
Key challenges include:
- overcoming the shortage of appropriately skilled staff for student liaison roles
- recognising the need for secure resources within wider university workforce planning processes.
University of Southern Queensland – Individual Tailored Student Support Program
The University of Southern Queensland’s Individual Tailored Student Support Program is managed by the Centre for Australian Indigenous Knowledges. It offers integrated, holistic support to all enrolled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Students are given the opportunity to choose the type, level and frequency of service they need to successfully complete their study. This model was first mooted in 2005 and commenced in 2008 with funding from the Equity Incentives Fund.
Under the program, student relationship officers are assigned to students to monitor progress and provide assistance at an early stage. Each officer has responsibility for students in a portfolio of faculties. Services include access to the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme – Tertiary Tuition and information on available scholarships. Students can also access emergency funds from the centre’s non-salary budget, to cover emergency accommodation, funeral costs and travel. First contact is made with students through the university email system and maintained throughout their studies. Each student is interviewed upon exit from the program and their study.
Student relationship officers maintain regular contact with students (approximately 300 in 2011). The university’s Workforce Plan takes account of longer-term staffing needs and gives stability in the employment arrangements for these officers.