Why are Students Leaving and What can we do to Stop Them?

Ann Conway, Dublin Institute of Technology

Conway, A. (2005) Why are Students Leaving and What can we do to Stop Them? Paper presented at the Learning and Teaching Showcase, Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, February 2005.


Not only are demographic changes taking place within the Irish population but in addition, significant challenges are being imposed on higher education providers to retain as many students as possible within the higher education system. Yorke (1999) noted that many students leave higher education prematurely and about 50% of these students do so during, or at the end of their first year in college (DIT, 2003). Some non-completion of courses is unavoidable and should not be viewed as failure by the student, tutor or college, but acknowledged that dropping out is likely (Oliver, 2001). However, a lot of non-completion is preventable and it is the responsibility of the college to help retain their students (Yorke, 1999).

Retention rates in Universities, DIT and other institutes have been the subject of a number of recent studies (Flanagan et al, 2000; Morgan et al, 2001; Finnegan and Russell, 2000; Morgan and Kelleghan, 2002), and numerous studies by Costello et al. Morgan and Kelleghan (2002) raised the issue of the lack of motivation and lack of preparedness of some students. This survey also highlighted the poor attendance record for some, and that other students were working during term time (McDonagh and Patterson, 2002). With less time on study, little time for reading for pleasure, and more time spent working and watching television, students’ decreased involvement in learning is well established by the time they reach third level (Lindsay and Bolger, 2002).

This paper is a case study on the Diploma in Hotel and Catering Management program in the School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, Dublin Institute of Technology.