Dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents twice as likely to drop out

Nearly 20% of stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged schools did not progress beyond first year Con­cern over pro­gres­sion rates among male study­ing com­put­ers and con­struc­tion

The Irish Times - - Home News - CARL O’BRIEN Ed­u­ca­tion Ed­i­tor

Stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged schools are al­most twice as likely to fail to make it past their first year in col­lege than those from fee-pay­ing schools, a new study finds.

In all, some 5,800 stu­dents – or 14 per cent of all new en­trants to third level – did not move on to their sec­ond year of their course.

The re­search by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity shows al­most one in five stu­dents (19 per cent) from Deis or dis­ad­van­taged schools did not progress beyond first year.

This com­pared to 10 per cent of stu­dents from fee-pay­ing schools.

These fig­ures re­late to stu­dents who be­gan col­lege in the 2014/15 aca­demic year.

Over­all, a stu­dent’s Leav­ing Cert points are the strong­est pre­dic­tor of their per­for­mance in col­lege.

Stu­dents en­ter­ing with lower points are much more likely to drop out or fail to com­plete their course com­pared to those with higher points.

The find­ings are likely to reignite a de­bate about whether too many stu­dents who are ill-equipped to cope with the aca­demic de­mands are mov­ing on to higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Al­ter­na­tive op­tions

Ire­land sends more stu­dents to third level than any other coun­try in Europe, which is seen as a badge of hon­our by most pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

How­ever, some com­men­ta­tors feel more stu­dents should be en­cour­aged to explore al­ter­na­tive op­tions such as ap­pren­tice­ships.

The pro­file of stu­dent most likely to progress is a fe­male study­ing ed­u­ca­tion or health­care in a univer­sity or col­lege, with rel­a­tively high Leav­ing Cert points.

The stu­dent most likely to drop out is male, with rel­a­tively low Leav­ing Cert points, study­ing a level six (ad­vance cer­tifi­cate) or level seven (or­di­nary de­gree) course at an in­sti­tute of tech­nol­ogy in com­puter science, con­struc­tion or engi­neer­ing.

In to­tal, the study tracked 41,441 new en­trants to higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The non-pro­gres­sion rate (14 per cent) was a slight im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous year’s fig­ure (15 per cent).

The num­bers who fail to make it to their sec­ond year of study vary across dif­fer­ent fields of study.

Con­struc­tion and re­lated pro­grammes had the high­est non-pro­gres­sion rate (23 per cent). How­ever, this is down five per­cent­age points from the pre­vi­ous years.

Medicine, by con­trast, had the low­est non-pro­gres­sion rate of all new en­trants in pro­fes­sion-ori­ented cour­ses (2 per cent) while ar­chi­tec­ture had the high­est (20 per cent).

The pro­por­tion of stu­dents who did not com­plete their first year var­ied sig­nif­i­cantly across dif­fer­ent sec­tors.

High­est rates were recorded in diploma (27 per cent) and or­di­nary de­grees (25 per cent) in in­sti­tutes of tech­nol­ogy.

This com­pared to lower rates in hon­ours de­gree cour­ses at in­sti­tutes of tech­nol­ogy (15 per cent), uni­ver­si­ties (10 per cent) and smaller col­leges (8 per cent).

Dr Gra­ham Love, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity, said over­all there were pos­i­tive trends.

How­ever, he said high non-pro­gres­sion rates on some diploma and hon­ours de­gree cour­ses in com­put­ing, engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion re­main a worry.

“The ma­jor­ity of these stu­dents are male. They may learn in a dif­fer­ent way and I am glad that the new ap­pren­tice­ships model is re­spond­ing to that way of learn­ing,” he said.

Ad­e­quate guid­ance

While rates of non-pro­gres­sion are gen­er­ally higher in in­sti­tutes of tech­nol­ogy (IoTs) than in uni­ver­si­ties, af­ter con­trol­ling for fac­tors – such as aca­demic at­tain­ment of the stu­dent and so­cioe­co­nomic back­ground – some IoTs per­formed bet­ter than uni­ver­si­ties.

Dr Love also said there needs to be ad­e­quate guid­ance and in­for­ma­tion at sec­ond level.

“There is a per­sonal and fi­nan­cial cost to the in­di­vid­ual stu­dent if he or she does not com­plete their col­lege course; there is also a cost to the State. We need to ask if stu­dents are pick­ing wrong cour­ses and how can we help en­sure that they make the right choice,” said Dr Love.

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