The Green Paper outlines the challenges we must address to ensure The University of Queensland (UQ) continues to be a destination for the world’s best and brightest students. It also includes proposed strategies that encompass all areas of the student experience from curriculum delivery to campus design and student support.

Peter Høj

Outstanding students, staff and alumni, cross-sectoral partners, imaginative teaching, and supporters in government, industry and philanthropy, have all combined to position The University of Queensland in the top echelons of the world’s universities.

UQ graduates become national and international leaders and contribute to solving some of society’s greatest challenges. They are sought-after employees, valued for their ability to think on their feet, work in cross-cultural settings, and identify opportunities for innovation often overlooked by others. This is in no small part a reflection of the tireless efforts by UQ staff to provide high-quality learning opportunities through student-focused, researchbased teaching. It also reflects the emphasis in the UQ Strategic Plan on student success and the development of ‘must-have’ graduate employees as the first of UQ’s six foundations for the future.

We have already taken a number of steps to welcome students to UQ, enhance online systems and services, develop employability strategies and produce world class online learning materials, and are looking at strategies to free up resources to be re-directed to the academic purpose. There are also many examples of effective, future-oriented practices in student learning across UQ from which we can learn. However, there is a clear view that the University should do more.

Drawing on the perspectives of students, staff and alumni, several data sources have informed this Student Strategy Green Paper, which intends to open a discussion across UQ and its stakeholders on UQ’s distinctive student experience. Following the synthesis of feedback on this Green Paper, a White Paper will be released in early 2016. The next steps will prioritise goals and assess resource implications. In turn, the student strategy will inform UQ’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, thereby setting an ambitious, five-year enhancement process that will include all UQ coursework students, staff, and stakeholders and enrich the career and life prospects of graduates. I hope you will engage actively with this process.

Peter Høj

11. Supporting students through a connected community

Often referred to as the first-year experience, the transition period into university plays a critical role in determining whether students will persist at an institution and the learning outcomes that they will achieve.[100]It is concerning that results from the 2014 University Experience Survey and Australian Graduate Survey reveal that UQ is not providing the support students need, with UQ ranking in the bottom quartile of universities nationally on this measure. Further, UQ students are seeking an improvement to the overall quality of their educational experience – more specifically, they are seeking improvement to the availability and helpfulness of the University’s administrative staff or systems, careers advisors, academic and learning advisers and other general student support services/advisors. This view was articulated at the UQ SHAPE forum as the need to ‘streamline bureaucratic services and communication within and between Schools and Faculties to create a more efficient experience with administrative processes’. The general dissatisfaction across UQ’s suite of support systems and services may arguably be contributing to a decline in high quality first preferences and student retention.

A clever integration of virtual and person-facing resources is needed to service the complexity of students’ enquiries. When seeking help or guidance, students expect staff to be knowledgeable and caring and to have either the correct information on-hand or immediate access to it for complete problem resolution in a single meeting. One-stop centres can provide ‘high- value low-frequency’ interactions to help students make decisions in a number of areas and to foster a positive experience of value.[101] The Enrolment Service Professionals who work with the students at the University of British Columbia are trained to help students with diverse issues, including admission, registration, student records, student financial support and fee assessment. The University of British Columbia aims to streamline the students’ experience with the university’s administrative processes. As part of this approach, students with concerns are identified as early as possible through Early Alert and are connected to supportive resources and services.[102]

When students belong to a university community and receive timely and effective support, they have a much greater chance of success.[103] [104] [105] [106] [107] In January 2015, UQ established the Student Relations Team comprising a student crew whose members build relationships with students during critical touch-points of their first year of study. Student Crew telephoned all new students upon acceptance of offer on the basis of their program of study followed by several subsequent follow up calls based on risk factors. Preliminary evaluation of the data suggests that students have found this service to be helpful, timely and relevant and to have had a positive influence on them feeling welcomed, supported and valued by UQ. The University of British Columbia provides a personalised service for incoming students, whereby each incoming first-year student is assigned their own student service specialist who will guide and assist them throughout their entire university career.[108]Similarly, Ohio State University runs the First Year Experience Program, which is a suite of activities, events, camps and development programs to help new students to understand better how to navigate the university, enhance their capacity to engage with new people and ideas and develop the skills and connections required to meet the challenges they may face both in and out of the classroom.[109]

Mentoring schemes can be an effective option to help students manage the challenges and stresses that come with university study. There are many approaches to mentoring, such as peer mentoring, specialist mentoring (mentoring by professional mentors), external mentoring (community, alumni, disciplinary mentoring) and faculty mentoring and each has its strengths and limitations. Peer mentoring schemes can support new students in their transition to university and graduating students in their transition to the workplace.[110] [111] Schemes have embedded peer mentoring into final year capstone course as a way of providing opportunities for students to build skills and experience, reflect on their professional identity and demonstrate achievement of graduate attributes.[112] Reported advantages for final year students acting as mentors include a sense of satisfaction and self-worth, enjoyment in sharing expertise and gaining new personal insights.[113] [114] Peer Assisted Study Sessions, as conducted in some UQ courses, is another way students engage and support each other as partners in a community of learning with upper level students teaching first year students.

External mentoring can help students realize university study is about connecting beyond their program and increases the active participation of alumni and other community partners with the university.[115] UQ can provide students access to a unique and extensive network of collaborative communities (e.g., staff, alumni, employers) for opportunities and guidance. Students must be encouraged to feel part of UQ, supported to self-manage their university pathways and develop an enduring relationship with UQ as future alumni, employers and partners. 

Challenge 8:

How can UQ provide students with quality support from transition to graduation that fosters a sense of belonging and guides them to become autonomous and resilient learners?

Key strategies to consider

8.1 Provide readily accessible, real-time integrated services (virtual and physical) through student hubs to resolve issues at point of best impact

8.2 Leverage the talent and commitment of students, staff and alumni through mentoring programs and peer-based networks


[100] Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P.T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (Vol. 2).San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[101] Burnett, D. J. (2002). Innovation in student services: Best practices and process innovation models and trends. In D. Burnett & D. Oblinger (Eds.)Innovation in student services: Planning for models blending high touch/high tech. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning.

[102] Amos, H. (2012, June 6). A new service model for students. UBC News. Retrieved fromhttp://news.ubc.ca/2012/06/06/ubc-gets-personal/

[103] McInnes, C. (2001). Signs of disengagement? The changing undergraduate experience in Australian universities. Melbourne, Australia: Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.

[104] Coates, H. (2009). Engaging students for success: Australasian student engagement report. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.

[105] Kift, S. (2004, July). Organising first year engagement and learning: Formal and informal curriculum intervention. Paper presented at The Inaugural Pacific Rim - First Year in Higher Education Conference: Dealing with Diversity, Melbourne.

[106] Kuh, G.D. (2003). What we're learning from student engagement from the NSSE. Change, 35(2), 24-32.

[107] Yorke, M., & Longden, B. (2008). The first year experience of higher education in the UK: Final report. York, UK: The Higher Education Academy.

[108] UBC News. (2012). Names not numbers: UBC introduces personalized service for incoming students [Press release]. Retrieved from http://news.ubc.ca/2012/04/11/names-not-numbers-ubc-introduces-personalized-service-for-incoming-students/

[109] Ohio State University. (2015). First year experience peer leaders. Retrieved from http://fye.osu.edu/peerleaders.html

[110] Chester, A., Burton, L., Xenos, S., Elgar, K., & Denny, B. (2013). Transition in, transition out (TiTo): Peer mentoring for sustainable development of first and third year psychology students (Final report). Sydney, Australia: Office for Learning and Teaching.

[111] Glaser, N., Hall, R., & Halperin, S. (2006). Students supporting students: The effects of peer mentoring on the experiences of first year university students. Journal of the Australia and New Zealand Student Services Association, 27, 4-19.

[112] Barrie, S., Hughes, C., & Smith, C. (2009). The national graduate attributes project: Integration and assessment of graduate attributes in curriculum. Sydney, Australia: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

[113] Gilles, C., & Wilson, J. (2004). Receiving as well as giving: Mentors’ perceptions of their professional development in one teacher induction program. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 12(1), 87-106.

[114] Heirdsfield, A., Walker, S., & Walsh, K. (2008). Enhancing the first year experience – Longitudinal perspectives on a peer-mentoring scheme. In Proceedings Australian Association for Research in Education. Research impacts: Proving or improving. Fremantle, Australia.

[115] Terrion, J.L., & Leonard, D. (2007). A taxonomy of the characteristics of student peer mentors in higher education: Findings from a literature review. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 15(2), 149-164.