College Progression Rates Study

college progression and drop-out ratesA recent study by the Higher Education Authority on college progression rates has found that 84% of full-time first year undergraduate new entrants in 2010/11 in Irish higher education institutions progressed to the following academic year 2011/12. This compares to 85% in a similar study of 2007/8 entrants. The rates of non-progression are broadly similar in both studies, even though this new piece of work looks at students who entered college as the recession began to seriously impact.

Non-progression rates vary across the higher education system. Among level 8 (honours degree) programmes, it ranges from 17% in an institute of technology (compared to 16% in 2007/08) to 9% in the universities and 4% in other colleges, (consistent with the last study). Regardless of the sector or level that a student enters, students with lower Leaving Certificate points are less likely to progress to the following academic year.

Computing non-progression rates are seen to have improved across all levels since 2007/08. Improving from 35% to 31% at level 6, 36% to 34% at level 7 and 25% to 23% at level 8.

Concern continues, however, about high levels of non-progression in construction related courses. At level 6, Engineering and Construction and Related have the highest non-progression rate at 39% and at level 7, Construction and Related has the highest rate at 40%.

The highest rates of progression continue to be amongst the profession-orientated courses such as Medicine, Veterinary and Teacher Education.

As was the case in the 2007/08 study, females continue to display higher rates of progression than males. The overall male non-progression rate is 19% compared to 13% for females. This compares to 17% and 13% in 2007/08. This shows a disimprovement in male progression.

The students are tracked using a student identification number unique to the institution. A student is deemed to have progressed if they are present in second year of the following academic year in their own institution. The study does not take account of students who transfer from one institution to another.

Commenting on the study, John Hennessy, Chair of the Higher Education Authority said,

“Internationally, we continue to perform well. We have one of the highest participation rates in higher education in the world and a very good progression rate to ensure that students complete their course. Improvements in progression in computing and science are welcome. That said, we need to understand why many students don’t make it through. There is increased emphasis by the colleges on support in first year but we need to ask are some students sufficiently prepared for college life? Do they pick the wrong course and therefore, need greater guidance at second level?”

“Behind these statistics, there are around 7,000 students who do not progress from first to second year. This has an impact on their lives but is also costly to the system.”

The National Forum on Teaching and Learning, established by the HEA, is currently examining good practice at improving progression rates.

Reproduced under licence from ©Higher Education Authority.
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