Retention Through Curriculum Development: A UK Case Study

Retention Through Curriculum Development: A UK Case Study

Charles B. W. Prince (University of East London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7021-9.ch008
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Designing university curriculum is an important component to improve student retention and engagement. At the University of East London, the institution took to the curriculum as an opportunity to improve student progression and retention. In a time where UEL needed to make significant changes to the student experience, satisfaction, progression, retention, and graduation rates, bold steps were taken to ensure that their academic offering would support their strategic vision. The chapter provides the context of UEL's curriculum design journey and the results from those changes. A brief literature review is on the correlation between curriculum and retention. Next, the document analysis will show the experience of administrators during this process. The chapter closes by providing replicable and scalable opportunities that can be learned from their experience.
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Historically Black Colleges and Universities must examine the curriculum and learning and teaching to improve retention. One of the core aspects of their business is the academic delivery of courses offered to students and their engagement through teaching and learning. It is critical that these components are inclusive, engaging, innovative and practical. The days of theoretical teaching are no longer an interest to the new generation of students entering into higher education (Povah & Vaukins, 2017). Institutions must be flexible enough to change for their students and deliver a high-quality education experience that takes place in the classroom. Therefore, this chapter will explore the impact of curriculum development changes at an institution that needed to increase their persistence, retention and graduation rates.

There are plenty of examples that align with curriculum development and retention. These vast differences show that there are many ways curriculum design can have an impact on student retention. The most closely aligned approach is that of Lines (2005) and Pitkethly and Possier (2001). These seminal studies show that developing curriculum around the student journey. Building curriculum from transition through the first-year experience allows for students to build the necessary skills to be prepared for university expectations. Ultimately, it is about the university building a philosophy that focuses on the student’s achievement, engagement and retention (Lines, 2005; Pitkethly & Possier, 2001).

This case study is not about a particular HBCU as defined in the U.S.A. Predominantly Black or Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations do not provide institutions with any particular categorization or specific funding requirements. The University of East London (UEL) has been predominantly or majority Black, Asian, Minority & Ethnic (BAME) for the last 10 years. Currently, the percentage of BAME students is 80% of the total student population. Therefore, this case study aligns with the premise of this book by using its experience to improve BAME retention and attainment in an international context. The institution is 50% traditional students and 50% mature students (non-traditional). These students have the same financial and family makeup as many students who enroll into HBCUs. The institution is located in a gentrifying area within London. This has its potential implications in the near future but has not yet made a significant change to the student demographics that are enrolling. The reason for an international context is to show that local issues are a challenge globally as well (Brennan, 2008). This approach provides a unique perspective that can be translated to HBCUs. It is a practitioner’s perspective about a retention strategy that is still being implemented and evaluated three years after its official launch and implementation in the 2014/2015 academic year. This process is a highly unusual one as well in U.S. higher education.

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