22 SES 13 C, Identifying Risks of Non-completion in Higher Education in Different National and Institutional Contexts
Previous research show that there is not one single explanation for student non-completion (Yorke & Longden, 2004).The increased risk of non-completion or drop-out in higher education can be examined on different levels, namely the education system (societal level), the institutions (organisational/structural level), and the students themselves (personal level) (Yorke, 1998; 2002). The overall picture of drop-out risks in higher education looks very different from each of the different levels. From the education system standpoint, when studies are discontinued and the higher education system is unable to produce enough qualifications and fulfil the degree criteria, pressures towards system effectiveness and the shortening of study times become stronger.
From the institutions’ point of view, non-completing students will take space and resources from those who are motivated to study. Those completely interrupting their studies can be seen as wasted talents or resources. From the students’ perspective, drop-out from higher education has both positive and negative effects. It is not necessarily a problem at all; it can also be a self-motivated selection and the correction of an incorrect choice. However, it may be the case that the withdrawal from education is also related to other issues, such as changes in life situation and welfare problems that may cause difficulties in carrying out the studies.
To grasp the different factors affecting student non-completion, it is of vital importance to adopt sound theoretical and conceptual starting points. Applied theoretical starting points should reach the complexity of the phenomenon and try to take into account the different sociocultural levels (society, institution, individuals) and their different logic from the non-completion point of view. In this symposium, the commonly shared theoretical approach is Bourdieu’s conceptual and theoretical work, which is applied from several perspectives in the presentations. Higher education institutions and disciplinary cultures can be understood as fields or social spaces where specific cultural capital enhance individuals’ commitment to studies and their progress to degree completion (Bourdieu, 1988; 2004; Ashwin, 2012). In addition, it must be taken into consideration that different national higher education systems have very unique and distinctive features, which are also worth taking into account.
From the complexity of the phenomenon follows that different methodological approaches (quantitative, qualitative and longitudinal) are needed to reveal the different sides of the phenomenon. With a quantitative and longitudinal large-scale follow-up data could be reached the general trends and characteristics and possible associative connections to certain societal, institutional/structural or personal factors when trying to locate the non-completion and drop-out risks. Previous studies have shown that there are several reasons for leaving higher education (Tinto 1993; Yorke, 1998; 2002; Peelo & Wareham 2003). With a qualitative data (e.g. documentation, interviews, story-writing) it is possible to get closer to individuals’ experience and life-world, where better come up the very diverse reasons and motives behind the non-completion and withdrawal decisions.
One aim in this symposium is also to discuss the need and possibilities of combining different kinds of data-sets and utilizing mixed-method approaches for achieving a more comprehensive overall picture when identifying risks of non-completion and drop-out in European higher education.
Ashwin, P. (2012). Analysing Teaching-Learning Interactions in Higher Education. London: Con-tinuum International Publishing Group.Bourdieu, P. (1988). Homo Academicus. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, P. (2004). Science of Science and Reflexivity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Peelo, M. & Wareham, T. (eds.) (2002) Failing Students in Higher Education. Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Yorke, M. (1998). Non-completion of full-time and sandwich students in English higher education. Higher Education, 36, 181–94. Yorke, M. (2002). Academic Failure: a Retrospective View from Non-completing Students. In M. Peelo & T. Wareham (eds.) Failing Students in Higher Education (pp. 29-44). Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2004). Retention and Student Success in Higher Education. Berkshire: Open University Press, McGrawHill Education.
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