Effective Institutional Intervention Where It Makes the Biggest Difference to Student Success: The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Integrated Student Success Initiative (ISSI)

  • André van Zyl Director Academic Development Centre, University of Johannesburg
  • Graham Dampier Senior Manager, Academic Literacies, University of Johannesburg
  • Nkosini Ngwenya Senior Coordinator, Academic Literacies, University of Johannesburg


Low levels of student success in South Africa have persisted as a seemingly intractable problem. There
have been some gains in student success over time, but with a participation rate of approximately 18%,
the current success rates still represent massive financial and human losses to the country. Internationally
there is a trend to move towards interventions that are more strongly data-informed at every step and
the available evidence indicates that these interventions are more likely to have the desired effect. This
article reports back on the first 24 months of implementation of one such intervention, namely the
Integrated Student Success Initiative (ISSI), at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The ISSI uses
data to inform every step of the process which includes planning, selection and targeted intervention and
evaluating possible impacts. The ISSI is showing promise as an effective strategy for improving student
success and is allowing the institution to focus its limited resources where they have the potential to
make the biggest difference.