Using Student retention: Predicting Student Chances of Dropping Outs

In Australia, one in five students are more likely to drop out than complete university. But is there patterns that could help institutes act upstream? What are the main reasons people drop out?

In its report, the Grattan Institute finds that the probability of dropping out is relatively easy to predict, with characteristics including studying part-time and being a mature-age student strong indicators of risk.

The Grattan report states that more than 50,000 university students who commenced their degree this year are set to drop out. Here are the factors they found are most likely to put students at risk.

Student Background


The report also noted that the university entry mark also has a lot to do with the drop-out rate. Students who received an ATAR below 60 were more likely to drop out than those who scored over 90.

Research indicates that if you are the first in your family to go to university, come from a deprived economic and social background, and have lower grades, then there is a higher chance you will drop out of university. Indigenous students and regional students are also more at risk.


Student Academic Conditions

Part Time Students

Students who study part-time are much more likely to drop out of their degree than full-time students. According to the report, students who enrol full-time have an 80 per cent chance of completing their degree, compared to a 50 per cent chance for part-time students.

Another interesting risk factor are those who study STEM subjects. The report notes that health students are much more likely to finish than students studying IT or engineering.

Studying via distance education? Online students have a higher likelihood of dropping out too. We’ve spoken before about how the world of online study can be really isolating, so this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. And people who study off-campus have a slightly higher risk of dropping out.

The necessity for students to work while they are at university is another factor of risk.

Academics Results

Some students at risk can be spotted during their very first weeks. Those who already struggled before are more likely to drop out the year after, those who haven’t connected to their LMS…


Sense of belonging and social integration

Social integration is a major issue in Australia as 80% of students will experience loneliness during their degree and a student feeling lonely is more likely to drop out.

A Canadian study found that dropouts have a low sense of belonging, and that first-year students who don’t have someone on campus to talk to about personal issues were more likely to leave.

Sociologist Wolfgang Lehmann of Western University argues students who are either the first generation in their families to attend post-secondary education, or who are low-income students, often “encounter a sense of discontinuity.” In his interviews with 25 students who dropped out, he explores the theme that many had the feeling of not fitting with the university because of a lack of social bonds.


Lack of Student Support

This is an issue that goes beyond the student’s checkbook, the teacher’s capacity and the difficulty of courses. It involves the entire campus management model. Students may be suffering from a mix of issues that we explained above. They may not trigger an early dropout individually.

However, when more than one factor adds up, there should be an alert somewhere on the campus.

Read more by clicking here