National Research Program Provides Blueprint For Indigenous Student Post-Secondary Success

A ground-breaking, four-year national research project conducted by the University of Victoria demonstrates that universities can take steps to help Indigenous students significantly improve their retention, and ultimately, graduation rates. National education and Indigenous organizations and institutions have identified the need to increase post-secondary participation by Indigenous students as one of Canada’s most pressing issues.

The LE,NONET project, funded by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, is the first of its kind in Canada. It offered participating Aboriginal students culturally relevant supportive programming, community experiences, peer mentoring and financial assistance, and measured the impact on student retention and success.

“I’m deeply encouraged that more Aboriginal students than ever before are choosing higher education,” says John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. “I congratulate the University of Victoria and all of the students involved in the LE,NONET project for demonstrating that supporting Aboriginal identity and learning on campus enhances the educational success of students.”

The results demonstrate that students who receive this type of support are 100 per cent more likely to stay in school. LE,NONET participants, on average, also stayed in university a year longer than Indigenous students who didn’t participate in the program. Despite the short duration of the program, graduation rates increased by 20 per cent.

“These results are truly remarkable, especially given the short time span of the project,” says UVic President David Turpin. “LE,NONET researchers and administrators set out to address a national need and they’ve succeeded in not only demonstrating the benefit of these programs, but how to apply them. These results provide a blueprint for how UVic and other universities across Canada can create the atmosphere that will attract Aboriginal students to post-secondary education and provide the opportunity to succeed.”

“I would like to congratulate the University of Victoria for this innovative research project,” says Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “The LE, NONET project reaffirms what we have been saying all along: that First Nations need adequate financial support to succeed. This includes the challenges faced by many First Nation students that do not have support for child care and transportation. We need to find solutions that support post-secondary success for our people and work with institutions to ensure they are inclusive, responsive to our needs and treat us as full partners in the decision-making process.”

LE,NONET (pronounced le-non-git which means, in the language of the local Straits Salish people, “success after enduring many hardships”) comprised four components: bursaries; research apprenticeships with faculty and graduate student advisors; community internships in Aboriginal communities and organizations; and peer mentoring, matching upper level Aboriginal students with new students. An online and face-to-face Aboriginal cultural training component was also offered to UVic faculty and staff members who participated in the program.

Of the 200 students involved in the program, 144 participated in the qualitative research, providing feedback on their experiences through interviews, surveys and focus groups. The vast majority, over 90 per cent, said that LE,NONET contributed to their success at UVic. Over 70 per cent agreed that LE,NONET helped them develop their sense of Aboriginal identity, while over 73 per cent said the program helped them feel more a part of the Aboriginal community on campus.

The results of the LE,NONET project are being shared with the federal government and provincial governments, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and Aboriginal agencies and organizations to assist them in implementing a package of programs to help support Aboriginal student access, retention and success.

UVic has committed funds to continue LE,NONET’s success by offering the project’s programs beginning in January 2011.

Seven hundred undergraduate and graduate Aboriginal students attend classes at UVic. This represents a more than 700 per cent increase from the 64 who attended in 1999/2000. UVic is committed to increasing the number of Indigenous students graduating from all faculties. Through constructing a First Peoples House, providing student support programs and offering courses and programs relevant to Indigenous students and communities, UVic makes the campus a welcoming place for Indigenous students, faculty and visitors.

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Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Director, Indigenous Affairs) at 250-721-6326 or

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Keywords: national, research, progr, provides, blueprint, indigenous, student, postsecondary, success

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