Drop out rates in some STEM courses are as high as 80 per cent

Jamie Mc Carron 

Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class

Some third level engineering and computing courses have between 60 and 80 per cent of students dropping out of the course, according to data compiled by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The study was conducted over a ten year period by tracking the progress of thousands of students and also found that young men with low Leaving Cert points are at a higher risk of failing to complete their college courses.

The lowest completion rates were among Level 6 and 7 courses in areas such as computing and engineering at Institutes of Technology.

Some of the highest drop-out rates included the Building and Civil Engineering course at Letterkenny IT in which 86 per cent of students who started in first year left the course before graduation.

Biology and Biochemistry at IT Tralee saw a non-completion rate of 81 per cent and Computing at Athlone IT was at 67 per cent.

One former DCU Computer Science student that left his course after first year spoke to the College View about what influenced his decision.

“I found the way the course was being marked was really hard to keep up with. It’s pass or fail only so there’s no marks for the work you did, like my first exam in programming was four questions and I got two right and had the other two almost perfect. But because I only had two answers I only got a 50 per cent, stuff like that.”

“I didn’t think they had enough supports for students who were struggling, the supports they have in DCU are into the maths learning centre and there’s not really anything for my course in particular,” he added.

In contrast to engineering and computing courses, the courses with the lowest drop-out rates were generally in education, with areas such as health and welfare, social sciences, agriculture and veterinary studies retaining up to 94 per cent of their students for the duration of the degree.

These statistics were also reflected in the overall completion rates for different Higher Education Institutes, data which was gathered in 2010 and 2011.

Institutes of Technology had the lowest completion rate, at an average of 65 per cent, with IT Blanchardstown retaining the lowest proportion of students, with only 57 per cent, finishing the course they enrolled in.

Universities fared better, with a completion rate of 83 per cent on average.

Statistics obtained by the Irish Times show DCU as being slightly below average at retaining students, with a completion rate of 81 per cent.

This places DCU as the university with the second-highest level of students that drop out of their courses, slightly behind NUI Galway which had a completion rate of 80 per cent.

Lucien Waugh-Daly, Vice President for Academic Affairs at DCU Student’s Union, told The College View about the importance of third-level institutions making an effort to keep students engaged.

“There is an extent to which students need to be made aware of academic supports that exist within the university, to ensure they’re able to avoid being overwhelmed, and this is something the SU tries to focus on every year including the annual Don’t Drop Out, Drop In campaign which I ran in the autumn,” he said.

Trinity College and University College Cork had the highest completion rate out of any university, both at 85 per cent.

Teacher-training colleges however, had the highest completion rate of any form of third-level institution, with an average of 93 per cent.

St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra had the highest completion rate in the country, with 97 per cent of students there finishing their degrees.

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: iStock Photo