In your recommendations to INTI, you suggest promoting social justice through focussing on retention and outcomes. There is the possibility that INTI’s first-year intake numbers are due to the need for income from fees rather than from the desire for social justice. But assuming that social justice is the aim, I believe that you are right; without adequate student retention rates, social justice cannot be improved. And as you astutely observed, part of that focus needs to be on students who present academic risks and learning difficulties. Often these students are first-generation university students and do not have either the social capital or the psychological resources to support them through the difficult times at university.
Yamada (2014, p. 156 onwards) compared the attitudes in HE about seminar classes the U.S. and Japan. She discussed how the first-year seminar approach helped improve retention rates between first and second year in the U.S. In Japan, however, the culture promotes the notion that the public universities (i.e. the top-ranking prestigious ones) are populated with high academic achieving and motivated individuals. These students had already developed appropriate study skills and attitudes. On the other hand, lower tier institutions featured first year seminars due to the increasingly diverse nature of the student intake following the “post-massification phenomenon” (p. 157).
By definition, part of massification must be the increase of first-generation students, i.e. “students whose parents had no education beyond high school” (Warburton, Nuñez, & Carroll, 2001, p. iii). Such students’ time in postsecondary education is problematic. Accessing HE is often difficult and “even those who … do enroll have difficulty remaining enrolled and attaining a degree” (Chen, 2005, p. iii). True social justice requires a critical look at all aspects of incoming students and an analysis of those factors that function to impede student development.
Chen, X. (2005). First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education A Look at Their College Transcripts Postsecondary Education Descriptive Analysis Report. Education, 83p.
Warburton, E. C., Nuñez, A., & Carroll, C. D. (2001). Bridging the gap: Academic preparation and postsecondary success of first-generation students. Educational Research, 3(May), i–xvi, 1–67. http://doi.org/NCES 2001-153
Yamada, R. (2014). Measuring quality of undergraduate education in Japan: Comparative perspective in a knowledge based society. (R. Yamada, Ed.). Singapore: Springer.