Wednesday 23 October 2019

Disadvantaged students twice as likely to drop out after first year of college

Dr Graham Love, chief executive of the HEA. Photo: Frank McGrath
Dr Graham Love, chief executive of the HEA. Photo: Frank McGrath

Allison Bray and Fiona Dillon

Almost one in five students from disadvantaged schools do not progress to third-level education beyond their first year, compared to just one in 10 students who went to fee-paying schools, a new study by the Higher Education Authority reveals.

Some 19pc of students from Deis - Delivering Equality of Opportunity - schools, and 14pc of students attending standard schools do not return for a variety of reasons after the first year, according to a statistical analysis of new third-level entrants in the 2014/2015 academic year.

The HEA study also highlighted its concerns at the lack of progression by male students in computing, engineering and construction courses.

The education body believes there are questions to be answered over whether students are choosing the wrong courses, given the high drop-out rate from some courses.

The report found that students who achieved higher Leaving Cert points are more likely to continue with their course while the number of points achieved was the strongest indicator of progression rather than other factors, such as socio-economic status, according to researchers.

A total of 41,441 new entrants to the higher education system were tracked, and the HEA found that 86pc of the 2014/2015 first-year undergraduates and new entrants in publicly funded higher education institutions progressed to second year.

This was a slight improvement on the 85pc rate from 2013/2014.

The institutions involved included seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and six colleges.

One of the key findings of the report was that rates of people leaving their course varied across fields of study.

For instance, construction and related disciplines had the highest non-progression rate at 23pc, although this was down five percentage points from the previous year's figures.

Where students were studying for a profession-oriented career, those picking medicine were least likely to drop out, the figures showed. Just 2pc did not progress to second year, compared to architecture which had the highest rate at 20pc.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Graham Love, the chief executive of the HEA, said: "There are positive trends in the higher education system as we see small increases in the proportion of students who do progress from first to second year.

"We need to ensure that there is 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," he added.

Irish Independent

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