Victoria University adopts ‘block model’ to cut dropout rates

First-year students will study just one subject at a time rather than juggling four units with competing demands and deadlines

January 4, 2018
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An Australian university is overhauling its course structure in the hope of cutting dropout rates.

From February, first-year students at Victoria University in Melbourne will study just one subject at a time instead of four units per semester.

Known as the “block model”, the new system offers students the chance to study their chosen degree course in four-week “blocks” on set days.

The shake-up comes on the heels of a 3.6 per cent decline in the number of Victoria University graduates completing their four-year degrees between 2014 and 2015.

According to the university, the new model provides substantial benefits to students and staff, including the chance to focus on one topic rather than juggling multiple units with competing demands and deadlines.

Students are also expected to form stronger and more lasting connections with their peers.

Another benefit is that if students need time out for work or family emergencies, they will miss only one subject rather than four.

Commenting on the model following its announcement last year, Peter Dawkins, vice-chancellor and president of Victoria University said: “Victoria University’s First Year Model is designed to enhance the experience of first-year students on a scale not seen before in Australia.

“It has the potential to shape the national tertiary agenda as the First Year Model navigates students around the expectations of university life and equips them with the knowledge and personal skills they need to become motivated and independent to succeed in the first year and beyond.”

Speaking to the Herald Sun, the university’s acting dean John Weldon said that the new system – which kicks off on 20 February – would give students a more flexible timetable. 

The first few weeks of university were “the most dangerous time for retention” of new students, he added.

“Then they might get assessments in four subjects at the same time and they get into trouble. We think (the new model) gives the students the ability to focus on one thing at a time.”

While Victoria University is the first institution in Australia to implement this new approach, the system has already been adopted by some universities in Sweden, Canada and North America. 

Other Australian universities could consider doing likewise. Recent data revealed that Australian students are taking longer than ever to graduate.

sophie.inge@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Terrific idea. Looking forward to seeing the results.

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