Student retention : current evidence and insights for improvement.

Julie McMillan, ACER

Abstract

The Australian Government has set the ambitious target that 40 per cent of all 25 to 34 year olds will hold a qualification at bachelor level or above by 2025. Funding to increase the participation of persons from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds is proposed as a key initiative for achieving the broader attainment goal. In order to meet the attainment goal, however, it will not only be essential to ensure that more students enter higher education, but that these students are able to successfully navigate through their courses, raising issues of retention and ultimately completion. As new enrolments are expected to come disproportionately from low SES backgrounds and other groups that are historically under-represented in the sector (Edwards, 2011), the performance of these groups after entering university will be crucial for the meeting of the attainment target. Previous Joining the Dots research briefings have focused on demand for higher education and enrolments. In this briefing, attention turns to how students who commence higher education studies progress through their courses. The briefing provides a synthesis of currently available information on student retention, attrition, and completions, as well as the reasons underlying course non-completion. The retention of students from low SES backgrounds, a group targeted in current Australian Government participation initiatives, will form the focus of the second half of the briefing. [Author abstract]