The effect of academic development initiatives on student performance at a South African University: a case of finance modules
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The retention and the success of undergraduate students is a concern in South African universities which have been faced with a major challenge of low graduation rates. To respond to this challenge, South African universities adopted various academic development initiatives to provide support to students who are at risk of not completing the undergraduate qualification within the required time. This study used multiple regression analysis to evaluate the contribution of academic development initiatives in improving the academic performance of ‘at risk’ students within discipline of finance at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, during the period 2009-2011. Results showed that some of the initiatives, such as revision workshops, contributed significantly to student performance while others, such as one-on-one consultations between students and Academic Development Officers (ADO’s), had no significant effect on student performance. This study found that making academic development initiatives inclusive to all willing students did not disadvantage ‘at risk’ students. It was therefore concluded that academic development initiatives can only succeed when there is full commitment from students involved. This study recommends that one-on-one discussions between students and ADO’s should be supplemented by other strategies, such as timely and regular revision workshops, in order to yield positive results.