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18th May 2018

The college courses Irish students are most likely to drop out of after first year

Michael Lanigan

Irish students who score high on their Leaving Cert are less likely to drop out than those who scored lower.

Architecture and construction students in Ireland have the lowest levels of completing their first year in college, a new study has revealed.

On the other hand, students in medicine and healthcare are the most likely to progress into second year.

According to the latest Higher Education Authority report, the vast majority of college first years will move on to their second year, but one factor that has a clear influence on that progression is a student’s level of academic success before entering college.

In total, the HEA report found that 86% of 41,441 undergraduate first years progressed to second year in 2014/15, a slight improvement for undergraduates given that the rate is up from 85% in 2013/14. Those who were among the 14% however, were found to have had a lower “prior educational attainment”, or in other words, a lower level of points on their Leaving Cert.

Students who also came from a fee-paying school had a higher progression level than those from a DEIS school (19% to 10%), while rates for students from standard schools were equal to the overall progression rate of 14%.

Notably, too, it was found that males were less likely to progress than females across all levels and sectors, with the difference being 89% to 83%.

Here are some of the other key findings:

  • Construction and related disciplines have the highest non-progression rate at 23%, but this is down by 5% on the previous year.
  • Medicine has the lowest non-progression rate in 2014/15 in profession-oriented courses at 2%, while architecture has the highest at 20%.
  • Non-progression varies between sectors, ranging from 27% to 25% at levels six and seven in Institutes of Technology compared to 15%, 10% and 8% at level eight in Institutes of Technology, universities and colleges respectively.
  • Mature students are more likely to progress in IT’s at levels six, seven and eight, while in university and college level eight sectors younger students (Under 23) are more likely to progress.
  • Non-Irish students have a lower level of non-progression (14%) than Irish students (15%).

The report also created a profile of the students most likely to progress and those least likely, with the most likely student to progress being a female studying either education or healthcare in a university or college, with relatively high Leaving Cert points.

On the other hand, the profile of a student less likely to progress is a male with relatively low Leaving Cert points, who is studying a Level 6 or 7 course at an Institute of Technology in computer science, construction or engineering.

It is important to note, however, that if students did not progress, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have “dropped out” exclusively.

Progression is used as a term to include people who repeat a year, left for personal reasons only to return at a later period or those who simply changed courses.