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Is staff retention the key to student retention?

Posted on 13/08/2019 by Hannah Strauss

Students outside university

Staff within the higher education sector are ultimately the foundation upon which a university is built. However, even with the attraction of roles available and staff satisfaction, the ever-increasing competitive market, recruitment, and staff turnover are key indicators that the sector is difficult to recruit and retain the best staff.

While specific challenges vary from institution to institution, if universities stand any chance of competing for the best talent, there must be effective policies and strategies put in place for recruitment and retention. Recently, at Universities UK conference on Student Retention, it was suggested by Jo Chaffer that staff retention played a key role in retaining the best students. Surely this school of thought makes complete sense – to attract, retain and allow the best students to flourish, you must have the best possible staff in place to enable this growth. 

According to research conducted by Liz Thomas, the relationships between students and staff are fundamental to the student drop-out rate. Students are more likely to feel valued within a university if lecturers and tutors know their name, are interested in their work and treat all students as equals. Additionally, students will feel like they can seek assistance and help from staff when faced with problems if they feel respected by staff. If these difficulties are not reported or resolved, then this often leads to students dropping out.

There also needs to be an increased focus on employability support. Far more students are demanding that universities go above and beyond to help them secure employment post-university. After all, with the rising tuition fees, the cost of a university place should be worth it. Employing and retaining strong careers consultants and employability staff is paramount to keeping students happy and to increase their prospects after university. As well as this, staff need to be employed to help students secure access to internship programmes and work placements throughout their time at university.

What can be done to improve staff retention?

  • Flexible working environment – part-time or job sharing/ condensed hours/ flexible working hours/ working from home
  • Benefits Package – season-ticket loans/ access to additional facilities/ enhanced maternity or paternity/ holiday allowance.
  • Training and Development – bursaries towards additional courses/ study leave/ access to the University’s programmes or degrees.

If you are looking for staff within the higher education sector, please get in touch with our specialist professional and academic services consultants within our education team on 020 7198 6090 or email