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The Agency's president talks about academic success, failure and drop-out in higher education at the SPEET project event

Given the phenomena of higher education for the masses and a student body that is increasingly diverse, the analysis of academic success and failure in higher education is key to avoiding the negative consequences of students dropping out and identifying the challenges currently facing the university system.

Last Wednesday the Agency's president presented such an analysis with the title "Academic success, failure and drop-out in higher education" at the SPEET Multiplier Event, organised by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) at the Casa de la Convalescència.

The challenges

We share the view that the fundamental elements for reducing the drop-out figures are:

  • The provision of good educational and careers guidance for young people,
  • Providing answers to the increasing diversity and needs of students (e.g. adult students)
  • Enhancing and improving the tracking of academic achievement and specialised tutoring.

The aim of these actions is to not only strengthen social equity, but also to achieve better funding and improve the efficiency of higher education.

Different definitions and different findings

Previous attempts to focus attention on this kind of analysis have faced a series of practical difficulties: on the one hand, there is a wide range of indicators that can be used to measure the drop-out phenomenon while, on the other, there is no fixed definition of academic success and failure nor of drop-out: for example, should one just take into account involuntary drop-out, or voluntary as well? And at what point in time during a degree programme does student drop-out occur? For example, it is estimated that around 40% of those who drop out of courses in higher education either do so to go to another university or to take another degree course,

The choice of one definition or another is of great significance as it will determine the diagnosis of the issue and the strategies to be set in place. This is also a reason for the high variance in the drop-out figures, which in 2015 ranged from 20% according to the CRUE (Spanish Association of Universities) and 40% according to the Spanish Ministry for Education.

From the available data, the figure for first-year drop-outs in the university system in Catalonia in the period between 2012 and 2015 was approximately 13%; this means that around 7,000 students drop out every year during the first year of a university degree course. The rate was higher than average in Engineering subjects (up to 18%), which coincides with the low rating given to student support services and tutoring.

PDF Presentation: academic success, failure and drop-out in higher education [ca]