USI called on the need for further supports to be made available to second-level guidance counsellors to support school-leavers in making the jump to third level ahead of the report published today by the Higher Education Authority based on students progressing from first to second year between the 2013/14 and 2014/15 academic years which showed more than 6,000 students drop out of first year.
USI Deputy President Jack Leahy said, “Students were telling us that even though they may have attended open days and studied prospectuses, the course they were studying was often quite far from what they had expected. This can relate to course content, teaching hours, job prospects and more.”
Research conducted in 2015 by USI and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education showed that the adequacy of prior information was the most significant trigger factor for student withdrawal. USI noted that that teaching colleges have a significantly lower dropout rate because prospective students of teaching are well informed of vocational pathways involved in becoming a teacher.
Leahy also stated that, “criticism of “prior information” combines how prepared students are to make the transition from secondary school to a more independent third-level environment. There is an extraordinarily short period between a student accepting a CAO offer and the start of third-level. In a space of two weeks, teenagers are expected to move out of home for the first time and become independent. With the issue of affordable student accommodation getting worse there are plenty of students arriving to college without enough preparation to successfully transition”
USI are calling on the Minister for Education to explore a “second chance” option like that available in Scotland, whereby students can withdraw in their first year and commence another course of study in a subsequent year without a fee penalty. Individual institutions should consider how their procedures for internal course transfer can encourage students to identify and access a more suitable programme for them.