Written answers

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Institutes of Technology

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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171. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the drop-out rate in third level institute of technology courses; the measures his Department proposes to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16873/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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In line with the overall mission of higher education in Ireland there has been a steady increase in student enrolments over recent years.  The most recent report by the HEA on retention and progression, entitled 'A Study of Progression in Higher Education 2012/13 to 2013/14', is available on the HEA website, .  This is the fourth in a series of progression analysis released by the HEA and examines those 1st year undergraduate new entrants enrolled in the academic year 2012/13 and traces them to the following academic year 2013/14.  The report gives an in-depth analysis of the non-progression rates by NFQ level, sector, discipline, gender, age, nationality and socio-economic group.  There are many factors identified as influencing the likelihood of progression such as Gender, Age at commencement, Prior Educational attainment, nationality and socio-economic grouping.

The report shows that 84% of full-time undergraduate new entrants in 2012/13 progressed to their second year of study in 2013/14.  The rates of non-progression in 2012/13 varied within and between sectors ranging from 26% and 28% at levels 6 and 7 to 17%, 11% and 6% at level 8 in universities, institutes of technology and colleges respectively.

The report demonstrates that the overall new entrant non-progression rate was 15% in 2007/08 and has remained constant at 16% from 2010/11 to 2012/13.  However, rates of progression do vary across the sector and between disciplines and further work will be done to see how students can best be supported to continue on their course or transfer to another programme.

The HEA through the System Performance and Strategic Dialogue process also monitor progression rates within the institutions on an annual basis.  Institutes report on retention measures in place within their institutes to combat high non-progression rates. The HEA funds retention initiatives in Computer Science disciplines in higher education institutions through the Information Technology Investment Fund.  In 2015 these initiatives included additional classes, attendance mentoring, teaching and learning initiatives, student support sessions, buddy practicals and maths enabling courses. 

In 2016 the National Forum for Teaching and Learning established an ICT Retention Scoping Group to examine ways in which students could be enabled to complete ICT courses.  The group working with practitioners and industry recently made a number of recommendations including capacity building within the school system, improved career guidance, sharing of good practice on pedagogy and retention across the sector and strengthen links with the FET and post primary sectors.

One of the key objectives of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education2015-2019 (National Access Plan) is to address the issue of non-completion within higher education institutions, for those in under-represented target groups. The Plan also commits to the further development of mechanisms to track the progression, retention and student experience of target groups. The target student groups include entrants from socio-economic groups that have low participation in higher education; first time mature student entrants and students with disabilities.

To support the implementation of these objectives, a Working Group has been established to consider the issues contributing to the non-completion of target groups in the National Access Plan and to produce recommendations for policy and practice.  The group is chaired by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and includes representatives of relevant stakeholders.  The HEA, with assistance from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, is currently undertaking a scoping exercise to inform the work of the group.


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