National award for Charles Sturt Student Retention Program

23 FEBRUARY 2023

National award for Charles Sturt Student Retention Program

A Charles Sturt University team has won a 2022 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) award for a program that improves student progress and retention.

  • Top national award for a Charles Sturt University program to improve student retention through enhanced study support
  • Students’ supported learning translates into high student retention rates and well-prepared, highly employable graduates
  • The Charles Sturt Retention Team is leading the way in student support in Australia

A Charles Sturt University team has won a 2022 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) award for a program that improves student progress and retention.

The Retention Team (pictured) has succeeded in breaking down Faculty and Divisional ‘silos’ to introduce new ways of working, facilitate meaningful data sharing, and establish a ‘retention culture’ across the University.

The program, ‘Retention @ Charles Sturt: Collaborating to Build a Retention Culture’, was led by Associate Professor Kelly Linden (pictured centre, with team), Sub-Dean, Student Retention, in the Charles Sturt Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

The team and award recipients also included Mr Neil Van der Ploeg, Dr Noelia Roman, Dr Sarah Teakel, and Mr Ben Hicks.

Charles Sturt Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Graham Brown congratulated the team for the AAUT award and said the award validates the evidence from many sources that illustrate the program aims have been met.

“The disadvantage experienced by a significant proportion of regional, rural and remote students necessitates that universities – especially regional universities – develop sustainable and innovative programs that support students in their transition to university study and improve progress and retention,” Professor Brown said.

“Our program has had a demonstrably positive impact on student learning, retention and success, with increases in student progress rates and retention when disengaged students interact with the Outreach Team or meet with an embedded tutor.

“Every aspect of this work supports student equity groups, which are over-represented at our regional University because we provide tens of thousands of students from non-traditional backgrounds opportunities to obtain a degree locally.”

Professor Linden said the Retention Team has received widespread recognition internally, nationally, and internationally, and their work has been shared through publications, conference presentations, and directly through invitational presentations at multiple universities.

“In essence, we know that failing is not good for retention, not good for the University and most certainly not good for the student,” she said.

“We have demonstrated that a small, but critically timed, gesture, such as a phone call or one-on-one tutoring session, can mean the difference between success and failure, particularly for equity students.”

The work of the Retention Team incorporates three main parts; (i) embedding best-practice transition methodology (ii) pre-census outreach support for disengaged students who do not submit an early assessment item, and (iii) embedded tutor support in key first-year subjects.

Professor Linden said the Team is now highly accurate in identifying disengaged students and has developed innovations to support students who would otherwise receive a ‘Fail’ grade and accrue unnecessary debt.

“The Retention Team’s approach embraces creation and innovation, using an action-research cycle that enables the Team to generate ideas, test and evaluate which has resulted in a sector-leading program to support students and academic staff,” she said.

“We are all so pleased that the program has been recognised for excellence nationally and internationally. Our students and communities all benefit.”

Professor Brown also noted that the work of the Retention Team and its program are significant contributing elements of the University’s commitment to its students, as reflected by the fact that Charles Sturt is the top ranked Australian university for graduate employment outcomes for six consecutive years.

“The 2022 Graduate Outcome Survey (GOS) revealed that  Charles Sturt graduates are in full-time employment at a higher rate than any other Australian university, and this AAUT award is one example that demonstrates why,” Professor Brown said.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Kelly Linden contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via

Photo: The Charles Sturt Retention Team (left to right) - Mr Neil Van der Ploeg, Dr Noelia Roman, Associate Professor Kelly Linden, Dr Sarah Teakel, and Mr Ben Hicks

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