Monday, 20 Jun 2011

For immediate release Monday 20 June 2011

There has been a decrease in the number of university students who are considering leaving university before graduation, according to a new report released by the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Dropout DNA, and the genetics of effective support, the latest research briefing from the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), was released today.

The number of first-year students who seriously considered leaving university before graduation decreased from 35 to 27 per cent between 2008 and 2010. The number of later-year students increased, however, from 31 to 34 per cent between 2008 and 2010.

“People seek to drop out due to boredom rather than for more practical or financial reasons, while students who feel supported are more likely to complete their courses,” said AUSSE Director and the report’s co-author, ACER Higher Education Research Director Associate Professor Hamish Coates.

“Student retention is vital to increasing the quality and productivity of higher education. Student attrition has a negative impact on individuals, institutions and the broader economy,” he said.

The report recommends that universities increase resourcing for student support, including staff contact, course advice, mentoring, transition programs, academic writing courses, internship opportunities, counselling and other student services.

Boredom was the most common reason for students to consider leaving university, followed by change of direction, study-life balance, workload difficulty, and health or stress.

The report also revealed that:

  • International students are more inclined to cite quality concerns, difficulty paying fees and personal reasons than domestic students
  • Students from remote areas of Australia are more likely to cite personal or family reasons, needing a break, workload, financial difficulties and paid work responsibilities 
  • Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to leave due to family responsibilities, personal reasons, study-life balance and financial responsibilities, and 
  • Indigenous students, students with a self-reported disability and students studying part-time or externally are all more likely to have departure intentions. 

AUSSE research shows that student support plays a vital role in engaging students in higher education and retaining students to graduation.  Students who feel that their institution provides them with academic and social support are more satisfied, more engaged with their learning and more likely to report that their experience in higher education has helped them develop skills and knowledge.  Thus, they are less likely to have departure intentions.

AUSSE is a collaboration between ACER and participating universities. The 2010 survey involved around 55 000 students from 55 Australian and New Zealand tertiary institutions.

The full report is available from 


Media enquiries: Megan Robinson, Journalist and Corporate Communications Officer

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Phone: (03) 9277 5582
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