The RMIT belonging strategy: fostering student engagement in higher education

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Research and Development in Higher Education: [Re] Valuing Higher Education Vol. 41

July, 2018, 266 pages
Published by
Dale Wache and Don Houston

Belonging emerged in the 1990s as a conceptual framework to promote student success, retention and engagement in Higher Education (Tinto, 1993; Hurtado & Carter, 1997). Belonging is the sense of mattering and interpersonal connectedness: a basic human need, it enhances motivation and drives behaviour (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Strayhorn, 2012). Generally, its application within higher education has been to discrete student cohorts, often based on ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status or first-year transitioning status (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Strayhorn, Bie, Dorime-Williams, & Williams, 2016; Ribera, Miller & Dumford, 2017).

RMIT University, Australia’s second largest higher education provider, has a diverse student body. Student retention at RMIT University remains relatively high, however, recent evaluations have indicated that students believe the university is not doing enough to help foster a sense of belonging and friendship. In response, the university has positioned student belonging as a major strategic focus area in 2017-2018, and has developed a whole of institution RMIT Belonging Strategy. The strategy emerges from an extensive internal stakeholder consultation process and builds on the research of The Belonging Project (Clarke & Wilson, 2016). The strategy identified and tested five drivers that impact student belonging at the university, and proposed a measurement framework to form an ‘index’ of belonging that can be tracked and reported using existing university data sets. This paper focuses on the innovative and collaborative work of developing an evidence based, data driven enterprise wide strategy for inclusive belonging, and presents a roadmap of the process.

Keywords: Belonging Strategy, student experience, curriculum

The RMIT belonging strategy: fostering student engagement in higher education

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Wilson, R., Murray, G. & Clarke, B.