Coaching of vulnerable adult students

European Social Fund (ESF) – Lifelong learning in higher education: coaching programmes for the support of vulnerable adult students.

In collaboration with Groep Intro vzw & Ostfalia Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften

Aim and structure of the coaching programme

The aim of this international project was to develop a coaching programme for vulnerable, starting adult students of 25 years or older. We wanted to maximize the chances of a successful higher education course and contribute to the European objectives about lifelong learning. We will prepared and motivated the students, increased their confidence and made them more self-reliant. This stimulated the inflow of this vulnerable group to the labour market.

Together with some national and international partners, we wanted to develop, implement and evaluate a three-day coaching programme. With an eye to the reinforcement of the learning competences, the programme would pay attention to self-reflection, talent development, self-confidence, resilience and problem-solving strategies. Besides, we worked on language and communication competences, digital competences, application skills and time management.

Evaluation and final product

We provided a well-founded evaluation of this project. At the beginning and at the end of the project, the participants went through an assessment, so that we could carry out a measurement. Based on that measurement, we could judge and improve the meaningfulness and efficiency of the programme.  We also compared the study performance of participants with students who had not followed the programme.

The final product was the guide ‘Lifelong learning in higher education: coaching programme for the support of vulnerable adult students’. The content of this guide consists of a theoretical framework; a description of the target group and setting; the effectiveness of the programme; evaluation tools; the content of the programme and guidelines for trainers. The guide is available for free. 

Output and results: 'Well begun is half done'!

Participants testify:

  • “Definitely a helpful initiative, which already took away some insecurity. Great!”
  • “Very useful. I already feel (somewhat) at home.”

At the start of the academic year we offer students two coaching days in the context of the coaching programme 'Stevig uit de startblokken'.

We work with students so they will be well-prepared and start their academic career, and with increased self-confidence.

This is how we promoted this programmme:

Set goals and resources

You will explore:

> your expectations and doubts
> who can be of help in your environment/what your environment can mean for you
> which resources can help you with your course
> your own experience as a resource
>all while getting to know your fellow students better

Social, emotional and mental power/resiliency

You will learn:

> to cope with stress
> to deliver and receive feedback
>  to take on a problem-solving approach to obstacles
> from experiences of sophomore students
> … and by doing this, you will work on self-care and resilience

Still having doubts?

The insights and exercises will not only be useful in the context of your education; they will be useful in your professional and personal life, in your volunteer work, or your club/association,…

Study Planner

We also developed a study planner: ‘Stevig uit de startblokken studieagenda – boordevol tips & tricks’. The study planner is built around Sketchnotes of Jo Robberechts of Groep Intro which creatively and visually present the methodologies and exercises of the coaching programme. It results in a playfully designed ‘buddy’ which will help students to efficiently plan their study throughout the academic year. All freshman students of Family Studies were given this study planner in September 2018 and 2019.

Partners of the project

Groep Intro
Groep INTRO vzw is an organisation with the purpose of education, training, trajectory guidance, job coaching, work experience and social economy. The organisation aims to support people who have difficulty finding their way in society; they help them acquire and strengthen their competences. With the help of, among others, their expertise in experience-oriented learning via group coaching and group trajectories, Groep Intro makes an important contribution to the development and guidance of the coaching programme and the train-the-trainer.

More info:

Ostfalia Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften (Campus Wolfsburg)

The faculty Healthcare of this German University aims to include students who do not find their way to higher education in the traditional manner with the help of specific education trajectories. During a coaching programme at the start of each freshman year, the students work on digital skills, communication skills and the identification and mobilisation of resources. The University hopes this will help their students to get their academic career off to a good start.

More info:

The following organisations cooperated on the steering committee: Leerwinkel Brussel/Tracé; VIVO; federatie TKO.


February 2017 – June 2019


This research project was made possible thanks to the support of the European Social Fund (ESF) for the sum of 252.000 euro.


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