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Our aim at Otago is, every student – at every level – is supported

Office of Student Success image
The Student Success team: Maya Turner, Dr Rebecca Bird (Research Leader, Division of Health Sciences), Dr Stephen Scott (Head of Student Success), Associate Professor Jacques van der Meer (Research Leader, Division of Humanities), Nicola Beatson (Research Leader, Division of Commerce), and Associate Professor Damian Scarf (Division of Sciences). Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The Office of Student Success has a University-wide mandate to investigate, trial and implement initiatives to improve student success.

Success is different for different people – for some it's an A, for some it's a pass, for others it's working out what to do with their life. How we support our students to achieve success is as varied as our students are.

The Office will work collaboratively with residential colleges, academic divisions, the Shared Services Division, the Strategy, Analytics and Reporting Office, Quality Advancement Unit, and OUSA. Using input gathered from these and other sources, we develop and then trial initiatives, analyse their impact, and, if warranted, work to make them part of University operations.

Student success research themes

Success can prove elusive for any number of reasons. Some of the research area we will examine are transitions (school to University, first to second year, undergraduate to postgraduate), engagement in learning and the effect of belonging.

Our team's findings and efforts are seen across many facets of the University, including:

UNIO101: University transition and success

A lecture given multiple times in O-Week highlighting the differences between school and university and giving tips on how to be a successful student.

UNIO101: Getting started at Otago

A Blackboard site developed in late 2017, it has all the information needed by first-year students in the one place, plus course advice and exam tips and is available to students from before they arrive to the end of year exams.  This site is now also available to all undergraduate students so they can continue to access information they found useful.

Locals Programme (Te Kopa Iti)

Developed by a team of staff from across the University in 2013, the programme provides opportunities for academic, social and volunteering engagement for students living locally; boarding, flatting or living at home in their first year.  Locals also provides a newsletter for all first-year students living locally and free access to a study and social space upstairs from the Union food court.

Advice on workload

We found that in general, first-year students are more successful if they take three papers in their first semester. This level of work helps a student transition into university and therefore be more successful. There is now a University statement on first-year student workload.

Student outreach

Using engagement data from papers, the University has trialled making contact with students early in the semester to see if everything is going OK, for example: do they have access to Blackboard, are they well, and to let them know of the importance of early engagement on success. In these trials administrative, course and health challenges were identified and students were referred to the appropriate support services.

A new theme – Support for students contacted under the Academic Progress Policy

“It's not too late to get back on track” – this theme has been incorporated as part of the Academic Progress Policy process. Using this theme the letters students receive, when placed on Academic Warning and Conditional Enrolment, were re-written and support material was developed to normalise the challenges faced by students new to university. Then, working with the Residential Colleges, support services and a Retention Office, every first-year student on Academic Warning was contacted and offered support.

Contact us

Student Success team

Dr Stephen Scott (Ngāti Whātua, Te Uri o Hau)
Head of Student Success

Tel +64 3 479 8824
Mob +64 21 276 2674

Research leaders

Staff engaging in student success research or those who would like to engage in this area are encouraged to contact their divisional research leader:

Dr Rebecca Bird
Division of Health Sciences
Tel +64 3 471 6277

Dr Nicola Beatson
Division of Commerce
Tel +64 3 479 8321

Dr Damian Scarf
Division of Sciences
Tel +64 3 479 7636

Associate Professor Jacques van der Meer
Division of Humanities
Tel +64 3 479 4288

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