Engaging families to engage students: exploring how university outreach activities can forge productive partnerships with families to assist first in family students navigate their higher education journey

Associate Professor Sarah O'Shea

Fellowship years: 2015 - 2016 (year due to complete)

Abstract: Successful student access and retention are fundamental to the higher education environment, yet university attrition rates remain alarmingly high. This is particularly noted amongst students who are first-in-family to attend university. This fellowship will build upon an OLT grant that indicated how family members and community play a key role in the educational futures of these learners but are not systematically engaged with by universities. The fellowship will work with outreach practitioners to design, implement and evaluate strategies targeted at engaging those closest to first-in-family learners. Expanding university outreach beyond learners will increase the impact and outcomes of these programs. Deliverables include generic resources designed to engage with family/community; a set of national principles themed on the enactment of this connection and planned dissemination workshops. Outcomes will be (1) structured engagement between universities and the families/communities of learners underpinned by national principles; (2) improved retention rates for first-in-family university students and (3) new networks of practice between university outreach programmes.

Fellowship discipline: Education