22 SES 03 A, Drop-outs and Delayed Completion
Increasing completion rates in Higher Education is one of the priorities of Europe 2020 strategy as it is considered as a crucial factor for creating high-level skill employers, innovate and foster productivity and social justice for Europe’s knowledge-intensive economic sectors. The concept of completion and retention fits into a broader framework of defining and measuring study success in higher education (Vossensteyn et al. 2015). In their systematic review Larsen et al. (2013) conceptualize university drop out as to describe situations where students leave the university study in which they have enrolled before they have obtained a formal degree. In our narrowed approach completion covers students who successfully complete their study programme with a degree. For the purpose of our research retention is defined as delayed or postponed degree completion after the final examination. Although drop out is a widespread problem in higher education at European level, delayed completion is a particularly significant characteristic of the Hungarian system. According the statistics of the Hungarian Higher Educational Information System approx. one third of the students postpone obtaining the degree after they are passing their final exam. Referring research data from the Hungarian Graduate Tracking Survey behind the delays are mainly performance-related reasons: lack of language exam, non-accepted or postponed thesys. Therefore delayed completion should be defined as a top priority regarding study success in Hungary and it may require a performance-based approach (not ignore the fact that the socio-demographic and institutional background has an influence on academic achievement as well). Thus in the first research phase we explore the individual and contextual factors that impact on retention among graduates in particular as regards effort and ability which includes labor market preparedness besides academic performance variables is in our approach as well.
Meanwhile Larsen et al. (2013) underline the ambiguity of the term assuming that drop out is not necessarily should be defined in a negative sense. Moreover in some cases university drop out voluntary from the individual student’s point of view depending on their choices or motivations. Referring Tinto (1993) the university system with its values and goals is a part of a greater network student are influenced by. Therefore the decision for delayed completion could be affected by several external factors e.g. specific labor market conditions and transition patterns (Lindberg 2008). Regarding the employability of graduates the labor market is characterized by strong excess demand in some areas (eg. IT, engineering fields) in Hungary which can reduce credentialism in some extent. Based on this we consider it appropriate to examine whether postponing graduation can be identified as a specific transition strategy – moreover, not negative in the sort term. For this assumption we are looking for evidence in the second research phase.
The paper focuses on two research questions and intends to confirm two research hypotheses. The first research question investigates the structural and individual determinants or selection mechanisms behind delayed or lost completion among young graduates. In this context we hypothesize that delayed transition is strongly determined by performance related individual characteristics. Secondly, we investigate the labor market consequences of the retention. We assume that professional orientation (i.e. study fields) significantly affect the employability of graduates without formal degree. Due to excess demand in several sectors delayed completion is not necessarily cause disadvantageous labor market opportunities.
Larsen, M. S., Kornbeck, K. P., Kristensen, R. M., Larsen, M. R. & Sommersel, H. B. (2013) Dropout Phenomena at Universities: What is Dropout? Why does Dropout Occur? What Can be Done by the Universities to Prevent or Reduce it? A systematic review. Copenhagen: Danish Clearinghouse for Educational Research, Department of Edu-cation, Aarhus University 235 p. Vossensteyn, Hans and Kottmann, Andrea and Jongbloed, Ben and Kaiser, Frans and Cremonini, Leon and Stensaker, Bjorn and Hovdhaugen, Elisabeth and Wollscheid, Sabine (2015) Dropout and completion in higher education in Europe: main report. 104 p. Tinto, V. (1993) Leaving College: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. 2nd ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Lindberg, M. (2008): Diverse Routes from School via Higher Education to Employment. A Comparison of Nine European Countries. Research Unit for the Sociology of Education - RUSE, UNIPRINT, Turku 142 p.
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