First year university students at risk of attrition

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For satisfaction of market and highly competitive higher education, some modernized nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia have purposely implemented their educational reforms by focusing on first year university student experiences. Inevitably, the higher education must be quality-oriented. Therefore, the students who are graduates must be well-qualified and accessible to competitive workforces. In this regard, they have created a trustworthy educational trends through critically perceiving, monitoring, and solving the challenges, emphasized the roles in helping the students to exposing to new learning and teaching environment, and supported the institutional goal with the individual requirements; especially, the in the face of diversity of student population (McInnis, James, and McNaugh, 1995).In the research, Tinto et al. stated that the first year university students have been considered basically imperative to their success at university; consequently, some educators, educational researchers, and those who are involved with the educational sectors vehemently effort to explore and address the attritions that occurred to the first year experience students. Empirically, the first year students tend to either continue or quit their study based on their favorable or adverse conditions that they encounter. In these three research articles, scholars have indicated that one effective measure in terms of diminishing the potential drop-outs and enhancing the students’ learning achievements was shared responsibilities among the students themselves and the stakeholders.

Literature review

The first year students are likely to remain persistence with the interactive environment amongst student/student and student/staff (Haggis & Pouget, 2002; James, 2001; Krause, 2006). Apparently, students should be given the supportive and student-friendly institutional environment (Thomas and Yorke, 2003). The students will achieve high-quality learning outcomes with their engagement and collaborative learning (Krause & Coates, 2008) and with their personal relation in tertiary education classes (Zepke & Leach, 2007; Zepke, et al., 2005). However, the trends towards drop-outs are characterized as multiple issues and variables in the personal, social, and academic domains (Kift & Nelson, 2005).


Having interested in the first year experience, a number of research projects were conducted to figure out the first semester academic challenges of the students emergent to university. In a research article by Jacques van der Meer, a research project was conducted to figure out the first semester academic challenges of the students new to university. There introduced two data sources which were used through a data-Mining approach: the first data from a survey carried out in May 2004 among students registered in 100 level courses (n=1967) and the second data from interviews conducted with first year students in the same year (n=27). On the other hand, an article by Karen Nelson, Margot Duncan and John Clarke, five first year Units in one faculty at Queensland University of Technology were involved in the Student Success Project 1+b’ during semester 1, 2008. Units1-4 formed the foundation of one undergraduate program, and Units 1, 2 and 5 were the foundation of second program. The two programs set the sample to decide at risk or no at risk student characteristics. In a research article by Dr Kerri-Lee Krause, in 2004 the First Year Experience Questionnaire (FYEQ) was mailed to 25 percent random sample of first year commencing undergraduate students, chosen from each of nine participating public universities in Australia. The project surveyed the first entrants to higher education. The first mail-out of questionnaires was in mid July 2004, a second mail-out to non-respondents one month later in mid July. A total of 2786 surveys (33%) were returned. Of these, 2344 were usable returned effective response rate of 28% and the response across institution varied from 23to 31 percent.


Through statistics over ten years, the number of respondents admitting to considering dropping has slightly declined. However, it remains more than one in four first year students in Australia dramatically reckoning dropout. Those who seriously intend to quit their study are potential dropouts, whereas those who are unlikely to consider quitting are persisted students, but the two characteristics are not purposely identified. Instead, the indications of the potential dropouts and persisted students in Table 1 is the intricate interrelatedness between and among the variables such as demographic differences, finances and resources, sense of purpose, achievement and self-regulation, the role of the peers, time management, perceptions of teaching, belonging in the learning community, and student satisfaction. The other finding revealed that the first year student attritions were derived from disregard of personal connections which touched on two particular areas: no value of personal connections or peer relationships in the context of tutorials and in the context of course related group work (little guidance). Another finding revealed comparison between the achievement and persistence. Regarding to achievement results, it indicated that in three Units at risk students contacted accomplished higher final grades than at risk students not contacted. In Units 3-5, there was no difference between the two kinds of students. Regarding to persistence results, in Units1-2-4 at risk students contacted persistent higher rates than at risk students not contacted. In Units 3-5, there was little difference between the two kinds of students.


In the research article by Nelson, Duncan, and Clarke, it dramatized the fact that ARC-students achieved better and persisted more than AR-NC in Units 1, 2, and 4 but not in Units 3 and 5 was that the personal contact from the tutors was varied. Therefore, for the academic and social/personal needs and adjustment to life University, Queensland University of Technology implemented a holistic approach to first year experience, introducing The First Year Experience Program (FYEP) and The Student Success Project (SSP). The (FYEP) directly aimed at involving learning experience through an internationally designed and enacted curriculum, facilitate access to supportive service, and promote a sense of belonging, while the Student Success Project was to monitor student engagement in a holistic and systematic way and enhance the experience of the starters. This project was fully implemented through three aspects: The Contact Management System, Selection and Training of Student Success Advisors, and Call scheduling. In a research article by Jacques van der Meer, it claimed the three kinds of components: the significance of staff/ student and student/student communication in teaching and learning environment, the emphasis on well-organized group work, and the diverse students. In a research article by Dr Kerri-Lee Krause, it claimed that the contributors to potential dropouts are those who are thinking seriously of dropping out and that the well-adjusted students are persistent. It also suggested five principles for the effective student-institution relationship: the smooth cooperation of involved institution, the empowerment of students’ sense of purpose, motivation, self-regulatory behaviors and attitudes, the essence of institutional responsiveness, the necessary communication of students with their peers in and out of the classroom, and the enhancement of a three-way partnership between students, academic, and support staff.


Through three research articles, we can infer that the determining factor to diminish the potential dropouts of the first year university students and to enhance the student learning outcomes are the shared responsibility among the students themselves and the stakeholders. There seemed to the researchers that they agreed to the importance of the interaction among the student/student, the student/staff and administrator and support staff, and the institutional academics. The students need to be responsible for their own learning. As stated above they should have clear purpose of university enrolment, that is, the subject to be learned. Consequently, they would be self-motivated, goal-oriented and self-regulated learners. They need to make friends at the university and build up the collaborative learning which is believed to be effective in learning outcomes; moreover, they can deal with their assignment and class work, and the tasks the teachers handed over; they would have the sense of belonging at university, and they would be well- adjusted to the university. The institution needed to be financially supported in terms of enhancement the first year transition. For example, improvement of group work practice in tertiary settings, training the tutorial staff, and Supplemental Instruction Programs. The institution initially involved the students in personal, social, and academic competence. For instance, out-of-class academic activities, institutional design (whole-of-person approach), and the First Year Experience Program, and the Student Success Project. However, there culminated in limitations in terms of the accessibility of resources in the regard. The material resource is inadequate and expensive; using the call schedule was not clear how many phone calls were made and the risk students did not receive a call, and there would restrict and move beyond the faculty.