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CVER Research Paper
Post 16 remedial policies: a literature review
Clémentine Van Effenterre
April 2017
Paper No' CVERDP005:
Full Paper (pdf)

Remedial interventions in tertiary education are under scrutiny in most OECD countries. They are particularly important in a context of increasing demand for skilled workers. However, they are often costly, and their efficiency in boosting student performance has been questioned. This debate has gained particular relevance in England given recent policy changes that require students who do not get at least a grade C in English or maths in GCSE to repeat exams in these subjects. The objective of this literature review is to provide an overview of recent empirical work on the impact of remediation policies in post-16 education on the outcomes of students, in terms of educational achievements and qualifications.

Recent evidence on the impact of traditional remediation interventions suggests that the effects are very mixed: remedial courses appear to help or hinder students differently by state, institution, background, and level of academic preparedness. Some recent studies that evaluate mentoring approaches have found evidence of positive effects and interestingly find that face-to-face services cannot easily be replaced by low-cost technology such as text messages. Another interesting finding is that combined approaches (such as academic support services and financial incentives) can be more effective than the provision of one of these services in isolation. It is also important to note that even when interventions find positive effects in the short run, they can quickly fade out in later years. Finally, studies often find the impact of remediation to vary according to students' characteristics. For example, in certain contexts, women, older students and lower-achieving students have been found to benefit more from remediation services. There is a critical need for more research using rigorous methodologies to understand why certain types of students are more (or less) responsive to certain interventions, and to tailor interventions and pedagogies accordingly.