Colleges will face penalties if they don't tackle drop-out rate
THIRD-level colleges will face financial penalties if they fail to tackle high drop-out rates in future.
The revelation comes in the wake of a major study which reveals that huge numbers of students are failing to make the grade in some institutions.
Under a new funding system, colleges will receive reduced 'core' grants from the Exchequer. They will then be offered financial 'incentives' to meet targets in areas such as the retention of students, the rate of course completion, increasing access to college, teaching standards and research. If they fail to meet these targets, they will face financial penalties.
Details of the new approach to funding are still being worked out.
An announcement is expected to be made by Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in the near future after the long-awaited Hunt report on higher education reform goes to Cabinet next month.
Sources last night stressed that quality would have to be maintained and that it was not simply a case of colleges letting unsuitable students through to second year in order to keep up the numbers.
They said efforts would have to be made to support vulnerable students in their first year.
The latest HEA study reveals that many students on low points and poor maths fail to make the grade and drop out in first year.
The worst affected are 'services' courses, which include tourism, with 56pc of students dropping out in first year in the Institute of Technology in Tallaght.
Science, engineering and technology courses are also badly affected.