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5 easy ways to improve student retention

To retain your students, you need to understand why they’ve chosen to leave and then focus on keeping them engaged by supporting them in the right way.
Mel Parry-Graham

Mel Parry-Graham

3 minute read
September 6, 2022
To retain your students, you need to understand why they’ve chosen to leave and then focus on keeping them engaged by supporting them in the right way.
5 easy ways to improve student retention Image

According to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2.39% of all first-time undergraduates transferred university in 2018-19, and 8.3% of students dropped out of university altogether. These numbers do of course vary from institution to institution, with some facing much higher drop out or transferal rates than others.

While there are loads of different elements to student retention, here are 5 things that you absolutely should be doing to keep interest hot…


Connect with students early and often

First impressions are important. Sending welcome emails to students and communicating with them often shows that you’re excited to get to know them and that you’ll be there for them throughout their journey at your university. You could even send them a quick introduction video to give them a taste of what’s to come – like this animation we created for the University of Leeds.

This is a great time to share information around campus services, freshers events and what resources are available to them throughout their study. And when those usual first-week questions start to appear in your inbox, send a quick and friendly response so that the student feels encouraged to reach out to you for anything they might need.


Build a sense of community

Many of your students may have travelled a long way from home to be at your university. So it’s important to be sympathetic to how they may be feeling. A large, unfamiliar academic environment can feel really daunting, so it’s important to focus on creating a sense of belonging for your students.

Set about developing supportive programmes or groups for students that are specifically focused on creating a sense of belonging. You may also want to consider establishing a network of peer mentors who can make it their mission to reach out to and engage with first year students.


Use data to spot the warning signs

Looking at the data on things like low lecture attendance rates or missed assignment deadlines can be a really good way of spotting the warning signs. These stats can often give a pretty good indication of which students are most likely to drop out, so by closely monitoring this data you’ll be able to make sure that you respond early on.

You should also regularly collect feedback from your students through polls or surveys to find out how they feel and what they might be struggling with. These insights will empower you to act fast and ensure you’re providing them with the best possible experience at your university.


Offer real-world experiences

Connecting students with opportunities to explore their future career prospects outside of the classroom helps to bring meaning to their university experience. Holding careers fairs and seminars with industry-renowned guest speakers is a great way to help students get inspired for their future prospects and remind them that they’re in the right place for getting where they want to be.

A great way to help students learn about their options before they’ve even set foot on campus yet is to host a virtual fair, where students are invited to ask questions and learn more about what opportunities are available.


Signpost students to financial support

Financial worries are one of the primary factors causing students to choose to drop out, so it’s important to make sure that your students don’t feel like this is a burden they have to manage all on their own. Keep them informed of which financial support services are available to them, as well as any scholarship or grant opportunities that may be available.

You may also want to keep students up to date with job opportunities on campus or closeby for those eager to earn a bit extra on the side of their studies.


Although there are many different reasons why a student might want to leave or transfer from your university, taking the time to implement these student retention techniques will help you to boost your chances of keeping them engaged.

If you’re hungry for some related reading, check out our blog on what students look for in a university.