Applying systems principles to achieve greater integration of student support at a decentralised institution
Keywords:Student support, Decentralised, Integration, Systems thinking
The role of student support in enabling successful student outcomes is widely acknowledged. However, student support functions and the structures within which they reside often emerge independently at universities, and are seldom designed with integration in mind, leading to systemic inefficiencies. This paper draws on systems thinking to develop a framework to guide the assessment and improvement of student support. Following an exploratory case study design, we collected data on staff and student perceptions of student support by conducting semi-structured interviews and a focus group in a single faculty within a South African university. These data are analyzed alongside several documents produced by the faculty that refer to, and are part of, student support. We map four student support functions used by students within the faculty. These are: orientation, student advising, peer mentoring, and career advising. The analyses reveal that student support in the faculty does not constitute an integrated system and that this creates challenges in communication, continuity and efficiency of student support within the faculty. This paper argues that by adapting existing support structures to closer approximate an integrated system we can increase the efficiency of student support without the need for complete redesign or a significant increase in resources or staff capacity.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Riashna Sithaldeen, Ermien van Pletzen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.