Date Uploaded: 28/04/2017
The number of computer science students dropping out of their course after first year is showing a welcome improvement.
However, computing and other courses with a high maths content, such as engineering and construction, are still losing proportionately more first-year students than other disciplines.
Overall, there has been a small decrease in college drop-out rates, although more than 6,200 'freshers' in 2013/14 did not continue into second year.
Students from farming backgrounds, and female students, are least likely to feature among first year drop-outs, according to a report from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), 'A Study of Progression in Irish Higher Education'. Figures in the report show that 85pc - 34,000 - of first years in 2013/14 progressed to second year, up from 84pc in previous years.
While progression rates have improved slightly, it still means that almost one-in-seven first years did not enter second year.
However, a student who does not continue into second year does not necessarily abandon college, and may turn up on a new course later on.
First years on higher certificate/ordinary degree programmes (level 6 and level 7), overwhelmingly available in institutes of technology, are most likely not to continue with their course, with drop out rates of 26pc and 27pc.
Institutes of technology generally showed lower progression rates than universities and teacher training colleges.
Traditionally, computer science students are among those most likely to drop out in first year, and only five or six years ago as many as 30pc on some programmes were not continuing to second year.
Now, their progression rate has jumped, on average, from 80pc to 84pc on honours degree (level 8) programmes. In universities the retention figure on these programmes is now 88pc, compared with 80pc on institutes of technology.
HEA chief executive officer Dr Graham Love attributed the improved progression rates in computer science to additional funding for retention initiatives such as maths enabling courses, peer mentoring and tutorials.
But he said while the overall retention figures are stable and comparable with competitor countries, the lower progression rates in key skill shortage disciplines such as computer science, engineering and construction remained a source of concern.
The report also highlights the gap between progression rates in honours degree courses in different types of third-level colleges: teacher training college showed the highest progression rate, at 94pc, ahead of 89pc in universities and 84pc in institutes of technology.
Overall, aspiring doctors, who face tough competition for places, are most likely to stick with their course, with medicine showing the lowest non-progression rate of 3pc.
Journalist: Katherine Donnelly