Our research

Student Support Services are committed to conducting research that will help us understand how students experience University life, in order to develop programs and resources that will assist students in achieving their educational and personal goals.

Listed below are current research topics. As further data and results become available, they will be added to this page.

Australian Journal of Psychology paper

Informed by the 2012 Mental Health Survey (see below), this study investigated the associations between demographic factors, binge drinking, psychological distress, psychological flexibility, and self-reported Days Out of Role (DOR) among 3950 university students. This study also aimed to determine whether psychological flexibility moderated the association between psychological distress and DOR.

The results indicated that among university students, greater DOR was significantly and independently associated with a Non-English Speaking Language (NESL) background, binge drinking, and economic hardship. Greater DOR was also associated with increased psychological distress and lower levels of psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility was found to moderate the association between psychological distress and DOR: students with high distress were less likely to report DOR if they possessed greater psychological flexibility.

Overall, this study confirms that university students experiencing psychological distress are at a greater risk of experiencing DOR, which may be counteracted by improving psychological flexibility.

The paper can be accessed online http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajpy.12077/full.

Citation: Renner, P.; O'Dea, B.; Sheehan, J. and Tebbutt, J. (2014). “Days out of role in university students: The association of demographics, binge drinking, and psychological risk factors”. Australian Journal of Psychology, 12 October 2014. DOI: 10.1111/ajpy.12077

Mental Health Survey

The Mental Health Survey Report presents the results of the 2012 Mental Health Survey, conducted as a part of the Thrive Festival to raise awareness of mental health and psychological wellbeing on campus.

More than 4000 University of Sydney students participated in the survey, which looked at the mental health status and psychological wellbeing of undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Sydney.

The report recommends a variety of strategies to increase capacity to support students which include engaging the broad university community as well as enhancing natural supports such as family and friends.

ACT & Mindfulness

A series of ‘Mindfulness Training’ courses were advertised and provided for 246 students from Jan 2009- Dec 2010.

Courses were either a manualised Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) or a Mindful-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) program. Each course had 6 weekly sessions of 2 hour duration.
Sessions were provided by two therapists for up to 20 participants.

Outcomes of group treatment showed significant reduction on measures of stress, anxiety, depression and improvements on measures of mindfulness and acceptance. Qualitative results showed students enjoyed the course finding it to help them accept difficult feelings while motivating them to continue to engage in activities and values that were meaningful for them. They also enjoyed the group format - the companionship and support of participating in a shared activity while learning new skills. The results of the research have been presented in international conferences and will be the basis of a chapter in a New Harbinger publication on college mental health. The research has resulted in the modification of the original research manuals to provide shorter versions and/or spaced versions of the programs for both students and staff.

Track and Connect Program and paper

Track and Connect is an early identification, engagement and referral program for students studying in their first year at the University of Sydney. Informed by the Early Attrition Research Project (below), the program is an initiative of the Student Transition and Retention (STAR) Team within Student Support Services, with strong collaboration from three faculties - the Business School, Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering & IT, together with Counselling and Psychological Services.

At risk students are contacted by trained peers who offer support, advice and referrals to available supports and services, both academic and personal.

The program was first run as pilot program in Semester 2, 2012 and with significant developments, the program has run in Semesters 1 & 2 in 2013. A paper describing the successful program outcomes was submitted to SEG (Education) in August.

As a result of this submission, SEG approved an broad expansion of the program across first year units of study with historically high attrition. In 2014, nine faculties participated in 2014 with the program continuing to achieve promising results and encouraging feedback from participating staff and students.

In 2014, Track and Connect was awarded prestigious Vice-Chancellor's Award for Support of the Student Experience.

In 2015, a practice report was published in the International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education and can be accessed online: https://fyhejournal.com/article/view/266

Citation: Barnes, S., Macalpine, G., & Munro, A. (2015). "Track and Connect: Enhancing student retention and success at the University of Sydney. A Practice Report". The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 6(1), 195-202. doi: 10.5204/intjfyhe.v6i1.266

If you would like more information about this program or want to get involved, please contact , Student Retention Coordinator, STAR Team.

Early Attrition Research Project

Under the HEPPP funding allocated to the University, a research project into early attrition of commencing undergraduate students has been initiated. Student Support Services in conjunction with the Planning and Information Office (PIO) will be undertaking the project.

The project focuses on the students who are 'lost' to the University. It will look at students who leave at some point during the first six weeks of study, and those who leave during the first six months and those who leave in the first year, and analyse these students by certain demographic criteria to determine predictors of this early attrition.

The expected outcome is that this will allow the University to determine where it should focus future efforts to improve our retention of these students.

The Planning and Information Office undertook a quantitative analysis of all commencing undergraduate students, using enrolment data from 2009–2011.

Orientation Reports

Each year an Orientation Report is created an disseminated to faculties, stakeholders and members of the Orientation Project Group.

The report reviews the current year's Orientation program in terms of successes and developments from the previous year, and looks to improvements that can be instituted for the following year. The report is a valuable tool in tracking the progress of the Orientation program.

Indigenous Grant

The Indigenous Grant was a collaborative research project between Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Koori Centre. It was funded by the 2009/10 initiative of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) to “promote Indigenous education and encourage and support Indigenous students”.

The research was conducted throughout 2010 with a total of four focus groups including 32 (11.5%) undergraduate and postgraduate ATSI students then enrolled at the University. In addition, five interviews were conducted with Academic and General Staff outside of the Koori Centre nominated because of their demonstrated interest in and involvement with Indigenous students.

Recommendations included: raising awareness of CAPS among Indigenous students, enhancing service delivery so it meets the needs of Indigenous students, improving access to financial assistance for Indigenous students and an increase in the communication and promotion of services between the Koori Centre and CAPS.