Innovative peer-to-peer support program helping uni students on the path to success

We all know the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough, in particular for university students as they juggle study, work, family and other commitments. However, an innovative program introduced by Western Sydney University to help students navigate university life has been making a big difference.

‘Western Success’ is the University’s sector-leading, integrated support program which was rapidly mobilised and scaled up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been essential to supporting students in all facets of uni life – be it social, personal or academic – and is available to all international students, as well as any domestic students if they need it.

During the pandemic, it has been vital for keeping international students engaged both academically and socially, and connected to a strong support network while they have been studying offshore.

The program works by developing a deep understanding of a student’s particular circumstances using sophisticated data analytics and ongoing engagement, which together, proactively identifies a student’s needs. Then a tailored program of support services is put in place from across the University, just for them.

An important aspect is the pairing of students with their own dedicated Western Success advisor, who regularly checks in and offers students tailored advice and one-on-one support whenever they need it. The advisors link students with the University’s wide range of resources, social initiatives and support programs, and empower them with the tools, skills and pathways to help them achieve.

Importantly, Western Success understands that students also have a lot going on outside of the classroom that also demands time and energy and at times may present challenges to their university life – and it’s at these times that students might need a bit of extra advice or help.

Western Sydney University’s Vice-President (People and Advancement), Mr Angelo Kourtis, said the University has a long and proud history of opening its doors to those for whom the journey to university has been anything but conventional, and supporting students who have the drive, ambition and dedication to ensure they succeed.

“We know that university can be a highly-complex place to navigate for students and can be even more challenging if you’re a student from a culturally and linguistically diverse community, an educationally-disrupted background, or the first in your family to go to university,” said Mr Kourtis.

“It’s why we developed tailored programs like Western Success, which we quickly scaled up during the height of the pandemic, to ensure we could personally reach out to any student who might need any extra help during these challenging times, and support them through each stage of their educational journey with us.”

Almost 7,000 international and domestic students have already been assisted by Western Success advisors, with more than 68,000 successful phone calls made to reach out and provide help. 80 per cent of students said they had a good or excellent interaction with their advisor.

“We know from the feedback that this highly-personalised approach is making an important difference to the lives of our students in the program, helping them stay on track with their studies and ensuring they continue to have a positive and rewarding university experience,” said Mr Kourtis.

“Our plan is to continue to grow the program with the ambition to have all our students supported by Western Success in the future.”

For international student Nuska Mohamed Nawas, her own personal journey at Western Sydney University motivated her to become a Western Success Advisor. She welcomes the opportunity to ‘check in’ with fellow students, be a friendly ear and offer help, if they need it.

“I came to Australia all by myself and I realised that the connections I made with people at the University were essential for me to adapt and succeed in my studies,” said Nuska, who is in her final-year of a Bachelor of Medical Science (Biomedical Sciences and Microbiology).

“I was paired up with an amazing advisor who connected me to a range of resources for my studies and was a great support.”

Inspired by the guidance she received, Nuska jumped at the chance to become part of the Western Success team and share her unique perspective to help others. She considers the program to be an essential service for students.

“Choosing to become a Western Success Advisor is one of the best decisions I have made. It enabled me to help new students to make their experience a positive one and enhance my own knowledge as well,” Nuska said.

“I’ve been helping students for over two years now and the feedback that I have been getting from my students after each conversation gives me the drive and the motivation to keep going.”

To find out more about Western Success visit the web page (opens in a new window).


6 December 2021

Amanda Whibley, Manager, Media & Public Relations