Skip menu

Building on the foundations: Results from the inaugural block cohort

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 11:00am – 11:30am parallel session



Room 4 – 303-G16, Sem



Professor Ian Solomonides
Victoria University, Australia

Trish McCluskey
Victoria University, Australia

Dr Daniel Loton
Victoria University, Australia



In 2018, Victoria University (VU) implemented the most radical change to first-year university education in Australian history, switching all units to 4-week sequential blocks, and termed the ‘VU Model’. Comparing the inaugural cohort to matched counterparts from the preceding year, this presentation showcases nuanced results pertaining to student success and retention. Overall, more students were retained across semesters in the VU model – a gain of 1.5% – but retention varies by pathway and student demographics. Western Region (2%), younger (4%), school-leavers (3%) and diploma entrants (6%) were retained more, while bachelor graduate (-5%), postgraduate (-4%), vocational education and training (VET) (-4%) and mature-age (-3.3%) were retained less. All disciplines (average 3.5%) retained more students with the exception of one (-4%). The finding that retention varies across student characteristics may potentially reflect person-model fit: the matching of study preferences with characteristics of the model. Assessment results are less equivocal, showing dramatic improvements in both pass rate and grade. Overall pass rates increased by 9.3% for domestic students and 5.6% international, and large gains were evident, especially for lower socio-economic status (15%), ATARs of 11-50 (average 20.5%), incomplete VET or no prior education (average 26%), English as a second language (14%), and Indigenous students (21%). Noting that there are many changing factors across years, we cautiously attribute these improvements to the VU model, and conclude it has helped the University achieve its mission as the University of the western suburbs, and of opportunity and success. There are many possible mechanisms connecting the model to assessment results, but we primarily attribute improvements to engagement, brought about via a collaborative design-based approach that immerses students in an active and authentic learning journey. The model will continue to be refined to maximise learning for all student sub-cohorts, informed by a range of research and evaluative activities. (300 / 300 words)


Presentation topic

Tertiary – New Developments

Print Friendly, PDF & Email