22 SES 06 D, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
The aim of this paper is to explore the factors for full-time mature student completion or dropout from higher education. At a national and a European level (through the Bologna process) the importance of widening access and inclusion for non-traditional students forms an important part of the agenda for social justice and social inclusion.
Current research demonstrates that individuals who have completed higher level education increase their job opportunities, social skills, life chances, health and wellbeing, civic and social engagement (Rosario et al.,2014; ; Baum et al. 2013;Aontas, 2010; OECD 2007) while Bynner and Hammond (2004) have identified benefits of adult learning on health, family life and social capital. Therefore it is of concern at European, National, institutional and at individual student level to be able to identify key factors in retention or dropout among adults in higher education.
In terms of the perspective taken in this paper, Tinto’s (2012) work on dropout / retention in higher education has been used as a reference point. In particular he refers to patterns of student retention which are ‘a reflection of the academic and social environments of an institution and therefore of the academic and social environments’.
This points strongly to the role of the institution and its staff in student retention. There is little literature or research available in the area of adult dropout from higher education. Although Tinto refers to dropout from higher education and the focus in his earlier research is on traditional students. It is significant that Tinto in his 2012 revision has identified factors particular to adult retention in education. He points to key differences between adults and traditional students. Adults for example tend to take longer to complete a degree than traditional students. He clearly refers to institutional factors which support (or hinder) completion.
The research in this paper collates the findings of two qualitative research studies on risk and student persistence respectively, conducted at an outreach centre of an Insititute of Technology, in the South East of Ireland. The aim of collating this data is to enable a specific focus on the factors that lead to mature students persistence/ dropout.
Initial findings demonstrate that mature students’ initial decision making process in deciding to enrol in higher education is a strong factor in their persistence throughout their course. While levels of institutional support, language difficulties, and unrealistic expectations are key factors in dropout among mature students.
Fleming, T., Loxley, A., Kenny, A. & Finnegan, F. (2010). Where Next? A Study of Work and Life Experiences of Mature Disadvantaged Students in three Higher Education Institutions. Dublin: Combat Poverty Agency. Morgan, M. (2013) Supporting Student Diversity in Higher Education: A practical guide. London Routledge. Rosário, P.,Pereira, A. , Cunha, J., Fuentes, S., Polydoro, S.., Gaeta and Fernández, E. (2014) An Exploratory Model of the intention to continue studying among non-traditional university students. Psicothema Vol. 26, No. 1, 84-90 Tinto,V (2012) Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action, Chicago:University Of Chicago Press
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