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VU's block model success: improved grades and retention

At the end of its first year, new figures confirm that Victoria University’s reinvention of tertiary education in Australia has been a stunning success, with pass rates in its revolutionary First Year Model up by almost eight percentage points, on top of improved grades and student retention.

Exclusive to Victoria University in Australia, the introduction of the First Year Model (also known as the VU Block Model) has been one of the biggest evidence-based, student-centred, staff-led and community-integrated transformation programs ever undertaken in higher education.

“What’s amazing about the results is that we’ve seen how the Block Model can lift grades even higher for gifted students, while at the same time providing a framework that benefits students from low socio-economic and non-English speaking backgrounds,” said Victoria University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Dawkins.

When comparing data from 2017 to the end-of-year results for 2018:

  • Overall pass rates for Block Model students are up 7.9 percentage points to 83.9%
  • Students receiving distinctions jumped 6.8 points to 26.7%, while high distinctions jumped 6.6 points to 22.2%
  • Pass rates for low socio-economic status (SES) students are up 15.3 points to 81.9%1, with high distinctions for this group up by 8.6 points to 18.7%
  • Pass rates for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander students are up 19 points to 79%, while high distinctions for this group are up 11.9 points to 23.3%
  • Pass rates for students from a Non English Speaking Background (NESB) are up 14.7 points to 82.1%, while high distinctions for this group are up 6.8 points to 15.6%

There was also a significant improvement in the retention of students, with student load only dropping 3.7% throughout 2018, compared to 10.7% in 2017, further proof of the Block Model’s success and an important factor in the University’s financial turnaround this year.

Professor Dawkins, who taught an economics subject in the Block Model earlier this year, went on to say: “When developing the Block Model the University took a deliberate and carefully design-based approach for each unit that aimed to lift student success while maintaining rigorous academic standards. We are seeing these results reflected across the board, including for units that use the exact same assessment methodology as before the Block Model was introduced.”

“While a similar model has been used overseas, we are the first university to roll it out at this scale. The success our students are enjoying will likely have far-reaching consequences for the tertiary education sector nationally and around the globe.

“I’m very proud of our staff who have pulled together to make this vision a reality. The impact the VU Block Model is having in changing the lives of our students reflects their commitment, hard work and shared vision, and the results also back our decision to extend the Block Model across all undergraduate and postgraduate courses by 2020,” he said.  

In September, VU’s Block Model received one of the Victorian Government’s highest honours for excellence, the Victorian International Education Award. A month later, the Block Model also won an award for innovation from the International Education Association of Australia.

What VU’s Block Model students say

“The Block Model’s more-manageable workload has made it easier to keep up. I’m proud of my results so far, and I’m confident I’ll be able to continue my success with the Block Model.”

— Ethan Ellul (Osteopathy)

“While there are a vast number of places to study law, I found that Victoria University was the perfect one for me because of the First Year Model that it offers to new university students. The program is unique and gives me the best chance of learning to my full potential by smoothly transitioning into uni life.”

— Joseph Hafoka (Law)

“Focusing on one subject at a time, I can be really organised – I have three-hour classes three times a week, so I can balance my busy life. The classes are small, so if you need one-on-one attention, you can get it without having to wait. Getting to know my classmates has been easier too.”

—Fatma Abdou, Bachelor of Exercise Science (Clinical Practice)

Media Contact:
Frances Atkinson
External media
+61 3 9919 4061 or mobile +61 435 960 793

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