Social background does not affect student completion rates 

The student’s social background does not seem to have any significance for student completion rates in higher education, according to a new UKÄ report on student retention at colleges and universities in Sweden.

Once you have started an education, the education level of parents does not matter. It surprised us as social backgrounds affect, for example, grades from upper secondary school and how common it is to choose higher education studies, says Fredrik Svensson who, together with Sofia Berlin Kolm, has written the report.

According to the Higher Education Act, universities and colleges should promote widespread recruitment, which means that the students as far as possible should reflect the population as a whole.

The fact that social background does not affect dropouts shows that widespread recruitment is not directly related to a lower student retention rate. If higher education institutions increasingly recruit students with good grades from upper secondary education from environments with little experience in university studies, the number of dropouts can be reduced, says Fredrik Svensson.

Great variation between programmes

The percentage of early dropouts varies greatly between programmes – from eight percent on the Medical Programme to 35 percent on the Secondary School Teacher Programme (ämneslärarprogrammet).

It is primarily students with low upper secondary education grades who dropout from higher education. In the secondary school teacher programme, the search pressure is low and many students with relatively low academic grades from upper secondary school apply. This, in combination with the fact that this programme is a long and theoretically demanding education, leads to major dropouts, says Sofia Berlin Kolm.

Facts about the report

The study ”Early Dropouts from Higher Education” analyses student retention by looking at early dropouts and retention semester 1 through 6 on the top ten vocational programmes in Sweden. On most programmes there are general connections student completion and upper secondary grades, gender and age. Swedish and foreign backgrounds also affect student completion rates at some programmes.

We hope that the study will lead to increased knowledge on what influences student retention and where efforts need to be put in place to reduce the number of dropouts from higher education, says Sofia Berlin Kolm.