Study Overview

Student success is one of the most commonly used phrases in higher education. Although the phrase often connotes a multi-faceted perspective of “success” that varies by individual, persisting to graduation is the most commonly held component used to define “student success”. Provincial governments across the country are calling for “value for money” while the public demands post-secondary graduates with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet the needs of a changing work place. In each case, supporting students through completion of their post-secondary education is essential for realizing students’ and the public’s investment.

Programs and services that support student learning and success have become an important component of most colleges and universities, especially as increasing numbers of historically under-represented students (visible minorities, Aboriginal, first generation, and students with disabilities) are recruited and admitted into post-secondary educational programs. As these programs and services are added to post-secondary institutions, it is important to understand how colleges and universities organize to support student success and how institutional culture relates to student retention and graduation.

Phase III (data collection: Winter 2014-Winter 2016; data analysis: ongoing)

We thoroughly enjoyed the time we have spent speaking with students, staff, faculty and senior administrators from across Ontario. We learned so much about how campuses organize and approach supporting student success but to date, we have not had the ability to examine if a relationship exists between institutional organizational structures and cultures and actual measures of student success.

With grant support from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and the Association of  Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada, the next step in the research study is to examine if there are relationships between institutional organizational structure and culture with respect to supporting student success and students’ year-to-year persistence and graduation. We will do this by surveying staff and faculty members at participating institutions about their awareness of and engagement with institutional efforts to support student success as well as their perception of their campus culture in terms of supporting student success. Together, these surveys will be used to create measures of “institutional context.” We will then correlate the institutional context measures with student persistence and graduation.

Data collection for the third phase of the study began in Winter 2014 with 11 post-secondary institutions from 4 provinces participating. In Winter 2015, an additional 13 post-secondary institutions from across Canada participated in the research study. Together, 7 colleges, 17 universities across 7 provinces have participated in the Supporting Student Success project.

We invite you to review the surveys used in the project.

2015 Student Affairs & Services Staff Survey

2015 Faculty Survey

2015 Senior Administrator for Students Survey

2015 Senior Academic Officer Survey

SSS Composite Descriptions

Phase II (Winter 2011 – Spring 2013)

While completing the analysis from the first phase of the Supporting Student Success research study, it became clear that we needed to go back to the participating institutions and hear from students, faculty, and senior administrative readers. We needed to learn how these groups view their institutions in terms of supporting student success. With grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Connaught New Researcher program at the University of Toronto, the Supporting Student Success research team engaged in the second phase of data collection. By speaking with students, faculty, senior administrative leaders and additional staff members, we gained a 360 degree understanding of how Ontario’s post-secondary institutions organize to support student success. We have invite you to take a look at the publications and presentations that has come from this phase of the research study on the “Presentations and Publications” tab.

Phase I (Summer 2010 – Fall 2011)

The first phase of the Supporting Student Success research study sought to understand how student affairs and services staff have made sense of their institution’s organization with regard to supporting student success. Through interviews and focus group conversations with nearly 300 student affairs and services staff from 9 universities and 5 colleges across Ontario, the research study provides a more complete description of the formal organizational (reporting lines, titles and breadth of portfolio) and informal (communication strategies, collaborative initiatives) structures within Ontario’s post-secondary institutions and how staff perceive these structures as helping and/or hindering their ability to best support student success. Findings from the first phase of the study can be found in the HEQCO report that we wrote.