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Strategies for Student Belonging: The Nexus of Policy and Practice in Higher Education


This practice report, framed within transition pedagogy (Kift et al., 2010), seeks to offer suggestions to assist higher education educators and administrators to develop and apply policies to foster student belonging. The authors of this article are employed at an Australian university which offers alternative pathways for students to enter a mainstream university degree. The authors were part of a project sub-committee responsible for reviewing literature on the definition of, and approaches to, belonging and writing a report with suggestions to enhance student engagement and progression. The report concluded that belonging should be a “whole-of-institution” approach (TEQSA, 2020) where all aspects of a student’s journey are considered when developing and applying student success strategies. This practice report culminates past studies and offers belonging enhancing teaching advice, policy suggestions and learning tools to strengthen connections between students and the higher education institutions in which they are enrolled.

Published: 2022-11-29
Pages:54 to 62
Section:Practice Reports
How to Cite
Mahoney, B., Kumar, J., & Sabsabi, M. (2022). Strategies for Student Belonging: The Nexus of Policy and Practice in Higher Education. Student Success, 13(3), 54-62.

Author Biographies

Western Sydney University The College
Australia Australia

Dr Brendan Mahoney is a passionate advocate for student access and support. He was raised in Western Sydney, attending Western Sydney University for his Bachelor of Arts, Honours, and PhD in Culture and Society, and tutoring at the same university before taking up various roles at Western Sydney University – The College and currently a First Year Experience Coordinator (FYEC). As an FYEC Brendan has been a tireless advocate for students in receiving support an improving institutional practices in this area.

Western Sydney University The College
Australia Australia

With a Masters in Multimedia Design, and a graduate of advertising’s globally recognised AWARD School, Jennifer Kumar has had over 16 years professional industry experience as a Graphic Designer and Art Director, before joining Western Sydney University. After initially working in the WSU’s Design (Visual Communication) course, she currently teaches Design full time at Western Sydney University - The College in the Academic Pathways Program. Jennifer was invited to co-led a Cross-Discipline Teaching/Curriculum team creating a comprehensive report and a college-wide staff presentation, and now contributes to the university’s Multidisciplinary Project-Based Learning and Research group. Recently she has been investigating staff awareness and classroom support methods for neurodivergent students in transitional education. Jennifer champions the holistic development, transferable skills and belonging experiences of students in their tertiary studies, whilst preparing them for their future careers.

Western Sydney University The College
Australia Australia

Mohammed Sabsabi is a sessional academic teacher and lecturer within Arts and business faculties in the higher education sector in Australia. His roles have primarily involved teaching first year alterative entry university students enrolled in courses which have embedded within them structured academic support and pastoral care programs. Mohammed has held a variety of other roles within the higher education sector including curriculum writer, academic advisor, careers facilitator, academic skills workshop facilitator as well as serving as a committee member on a project designed to improve student engagement and progression outcomes. Additionally, Mohammed teaches business courses in the vocational education and training industry. Mohammed’s work in the university pathway sector inspired a Masters degree by research at The University of Sydney, the thesis of which was entitled ‘The Extent to Which a Higher Education Pathways Program (HEPP) Prepares Students for University: An Investigation of Promises, Perceptions and Practices.’

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795