Drop-out rates at third-level colleges


Sir, – Carl O’Brien points to studies indicating that college drop-out rates are closely related to issues of social justice and equity in education and training (“Are we sending too many students to college?”, Education, January 9th).

In my experience as a teacher, I noted that learners from lower socio-economic backgrounds are at a distinct disadvantage when they progress to third level.

First, those privileged enough to have gone through the third-level system know only too well that there is an abyss between the second-level and third-level education strands. Those from higher socio-economic groups have started to cross the abyss well before entering college due to the habitus they have experienced growing up and throughout their secondary education – books and computers at home, trips abroad, personal space for study, grinds and so on. Those from lower socio-economic backgrounds do not have that advantage and consequently lack confidence and skills to cope with the transition from second level to third level.

Second, the Leaving Certificate is predominately a rote-learning exercise that may not prepare all learners for the third-level environment. Achieving lower points in the Leaving Certificate may mean that essential skills, other than maths, are lacking.

Confidence and competency in writing skills, research skills, and proficiency in basic computer skills are all indispensable skills for a smooth transition from second-level to third-level education.

It has been my experience that students who have not achieved high points have benefited enormously from participating in Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) level five courses. These courses provide the learner the opportunity to develop the skills listed above and therefore make the transition to third level much smoother.

Students should be encouraged and supported to participate in QQI courses before transitioning to third-level colleges. I strongly believe it would contribute to reducing drop-out rates and contribute in a small way to reducing inequality in education.


Dún Lúiche,

Co Dhún na nGall.

Sir, – Dropout rates in institutes of technology and universities are similar for students with equal Leaving Cert points. This is despite Higher Education Authority figures showing that institutes of technology receive less funding per student, have a lower staff-student ratio and have only 56 per cent of the space per student compared to the university sector. Funding for both sectors should be on an equal footing.

Students expect that if they meet course entry requirements that they have a good chance of graduating. Dropping out of a course costs students dearly in terms of money and self-confidence.

There are other options available in the further education sector.

Waiting a few years until students are more mature is another option.

Courses with high drop-out rates should introduce realistic minimum entry requirements. This would provide a target for Leaving Cert students. – Yours,etc,