Retention of learners is a key issue for Access to Higher Education (HE) providers and can have a big impact on achievement, success rates and funding.

Gateway Qualifications worked with our approved providers to conduct a deep and wide-ranging investigation into achievement and retention rates to establish the reasons that learners withdraw and do not complete their chosen Diploma.

The investigation revealed that learners’ health issues, and predominantly mental health issues, were the leading negative impact factor on retention rates. Juggling busy work and family lives, and all the pressure that this brings when combined with the demands of their studies can be a stress factor that too often results in learners leaving study before they reach the end.

To help our Centres and learners tackle these issues, we worked with a leading mental health charity to develop a new unit in Promoting Wellbeing and Building Resilience.

The unit is intended to develop learners’ understanding of wellbeing and ways to build resilience to cope with the pressures in their study as well as other factors both during their Access to HE course and when they progress to higher education.

The ungraded unit is available on all of our Access to HE Diplomas to enable providers to support their learners considering an Access to HE Diploma.

The unit provides learners with the knowledge, understanding and guidance on where they can seek help and the strategies that they can use in order to reduce the impact that stresses many have on their studies and home life.

I would recommend the wellbeing unit to Centres! We use it as the very first unit our students complete for two reasons; to bring attention to the need for them to understand their own wellbeing and ways of managing it, given they are in an intensive period of study, and I also use it to practice early academic skills. One of the tasks we set for this unit is the creation of a support guide. In class recently, some students were talking about how stressed out they were feeling - I reminded them to review their own support guide."

Julie Savage, Access to Higher Education Programme Co-ordinator, North Hertfordshire College

If learners are able to read the signs early on and take action to reduce their impact on their studies, they will be better prepared to cope with deadlines, family and life pressures, and therefore enable them to continue with their Access to HE Diploma rather than withdrawing from the course mid-way. This will improve retention rates for providers as well as allow learners to realise their ambitions for higher education and change their life direction.

For more information about including Promoting Wellbeing and Building Resilience in your Access to HE courses, please contact Gateway Qualifications on 01206 911 211.

*Originally published October 2019, updated May 2022.