Attrition: it’s up to universities to do something about it

Federation U, Swinburne U and the University of Tasmania are singled out for “showing significant rises” in student attrition,” in the Higher Education Standards Panel’s final report on completion rates, released this morning.

While there is no “immediate crisis” in higher education, “significant improvements in provider approach are possible to maximise students’ chances of successfully completing their studies,” the HESP states. It adds, that institutions cannot avoid responsibility for their attrition rates by blaming students’ backgrounds and circumstances.

“There are some institutions supporting higher-risk students to succeed to greater effect than others. An analysis using regression techniques showed that student characteristics only explained a small part of the overall variation in student attrition. The institution is a more important factor than the basis of admission, the student’s ATAR score, type of attendance, mode of attendance or age in explaining attrition – although, all measurable factors only explain 22.5 per cent of the overall variation in attrition.”

HESP also recommends the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency use its existing powers to ensure compliance with the Higher Education Standards Framework and; “take account of every institution’s retention performance in assessing whether these standards are being met.”

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham says, “greater focus on student outcomes improves the employment prospects of students, benefits prospective employers and ultimately delivers better value for taxpayers. Whilst some institutions have reduced their attrition rates and made big efforts to better support students, there is still work to be done across the entire sector.”

Senator Birmingham adds, the government accepts all of HESP’s 18 recommendations which cover;

Compliance with higher education standards

Better access to career and study advice

Institutions improving student services and retention strategies, especially for external students

Shared resources on best practice

Improved stats across the HE system

TEQSA examining attrition 


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