Dropout represents one of the greatest challenges faced by online higher education. This paper presents an institutional intervention aimed at fostering retention and success of first-year undergraduate students at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), an online and open university, through measures addressing learning design and academic support. Secondly, through analyzing in-depth interviews with first-year students, the paper explores their perception of intervention measures and their possible advantages or risks. Results indicate that time-related factors represent the major issue for persistence and continuance. Intervention measures such as personalized course packages which prevent overlapping of submission deadlines; flexibility in continuous assessment; and personalized support and academic advising were valued highly by most students. Future retention interventions in open universities are also discussed.