Date Uploaded: 14/07/2014
Statistics of College Dropouts - Young men who avoid apprenticeships in construction trades but struggle with college courses could be a factor in rising third-level dropout rates.
The possibility is raised in a report showing 7,000, or around one-in-six, first-year students a year fail to make it to second year. It reveals that 84% of students who started in higher education in 2010 progressed, down from 85% among those who began third-level three years earlier.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) found that, while university non-progression rates remain consistent at 9%, they increased from 16% to 17% among institute of technology students. There are wide variations between colleges and course categories, but teaching and healthcare courses under all headings had highest retention rates.
However, construction and related courses below honours degree level at institutes of technology had the highest dropout rates of 40%, and one of the biggest declines in three years. The issue was given special mention by the HEA, whose report says overall non-progression rates in construction courses jumped from 20% to 28% in the three-year period.
Demand for level 6 and 7 courses (higher certificate and ordinary degrees) in the sector fell by 40% and average Leaving Certificate points of entrants to them dropped from 320 to 285, while registration on apprenticeship courses declined from 6,763 to 1,307 in the same time.
“It is possible, although no data is available, that a number of young males that would have otherwise registered for an apprenticeship are now enrolling on level 6 and 7 higher education courses and finding that they are not suited to higher education and realising that there is very little prospect of employment,” it said.
This may also have contributed to a drop in male progression, with the proportion dropping out by second year up from 17% to 19%, while women’s non-progression rates remain unchanged at 13%.
The latest study affirms previous findings that students with lower Leaving Certificate results are more likely than others not to make it to second year. There was an improvement to progression rates on courses in computing, science, agriculture and veterinary .
HEA chairman John Hennessy welcomed those improvements but said we need to understand why many students do not make it through.
The loss of 7,000 students after beginning courses also represents a cost to taxpayers, big issues for new Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan.
Her predecessor Ruairi Quinn achieved some progress on measures to ease the move to third-level, but most colleges have yet to reduce entry course numbers and allow students specialise after first year instead of having to pick very specific programmes before finishing school.
Journalist: Katherine Donnelly