Academic Program Update - Elly Howse, Senior Tutor

St Andrew’s College provides a range of opportunities for our students to have a well-rounded College experience while they are at university. Along with opportunities in various sports, music, drama, fine arts, spiritual life, social occasions and charitable campaigns and events, the College works to promote the importance of academic rigour, integrity and critical thinking through our academic program. This program includes an extensive subject tutoring system, one-on-one academic writing sessions with senior residents, academic mentoring, and inviting guest academic speakers to events, such as after dinner SCR talks and Careers Week.

A well-rounded experience at College and university is highly valued by future employers and institutions; this well-rounded experience includes academic achievement at university, which is often considered a critical component of entry to, and success in, many areas of the private and public sectors.

The College moved to a requirement in 2015 that our students must maintain an annual average mark of 65 in order to remain in College the following year. This was based on a number of reasons, one of which was the acknowledgement that highly sought-after graduate roles and clerkships usually require a high level of academic performance at university. Another reason is that postgraduate study (both coursework and research) at the best universities in Australia, US, UK and Canada requires at least a 65 average (a Credit average) to be considered for admission.

While it is true that universities and employers consider many other aspects apart from academic achievement, having a strong academic record is often the bare minimum required before even being considered. Thus with an ever competitive employment and academic landscape both in Australia and overseas, it is essential our students are offered a myriad of opportunities to excel and succeed academically, professionally and personally during their time at College.

The result to this change has been an increased awareness of and interest in all things academic. Semester 1 results were impressive: the overall average of marks was a Credit average (and has been for some years), and the College had a very low rate of academic failure. While a small number of students experience some challenges regarding academic progress, it is clear that these students can make leaps and bounds in their academic work with the support of the College. We have seen a significant interest in academic mentoring from these students, as well as from students who appreciate the extra support of meeting with a senior resident or member of staff every few weeks to keep them on track during the semester.

In Semester 1 2015 alone, approximately 140 hours of tutoring was offered each fortnight for our students during semester to support and extend them in their university studies. At least 485 tutorials were held over the whole semester and 70 different subject areas covered, with very strong attendance. Feedback from our students indicates that they appreciate the College tutorials for their small size (usually fewer than 5 students in a tutorial) and the expertise in subject matter of their tutor, who is more likely to have some sort of association with the College as an alumnus, current senior resident, or previous tutor.

In Semester 2 our Dean of Studies, Ms Kate Lonie (a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) has overseen a new Sunday afternoon study session in the College Dining Hall. This session is called ‘Just Write!’ and encourages our students to get together for a few hours to simply sit and do work with the support of their peers. These sessions are popular and provide a supportive environment for students to work without the possibility of procrastination.

In 2016 the College will be working to strengthen the academic program through a number of avenues, including the creation of ‘Academic Area Tutors’. These tutors will be high achieving senior undergraduate and postgraduate residents who will tutor, mentor and support our first, second and third year students with their academic work throughout the year.

The sky is certainly the limit for St Andrew’s in 2016, for 2015 has shown us it is true that ‘success breeds more success’ when it comes to our students and academic achievement.

Elly Howse, Senior Tutor