Northern Ireland

Drop-outs concern NI universities

Students (generic)
Image caption Both universities have brought in measures to combat drop-out rates

Both of NI's universities have expressed concern about drop-out rates, especially among first year students.

The University of Ulster loses 12% of its first years, while almost 6% of students at Queens University Belfast do not make it to second year.

Queens pro-vice chancellor Tony Gallagher said measures had been put in place which had seen the student completion rate improve.

"That's good, but there's still more we can do," he said.

"Part of it is to do with the level of support that's available and in part it's to do with an early warning system so if students are getting into difficulties we have clear and effective means of identifying that," he added.

"We've also found that it's partly about the expectations that young people bring with them to university.

"There appear to be quite a few of them who drop out in the first year because they are surprised by what university life is like so providing good quality information before they arrive in the first place we feel is very important."


Adrian Kelly, president of the students union at the University of Ulster, said a number of factors could make a student want to leave university.

"It can be anything from finance, to not feeling they have the right support or not just achieving the right academic performance and feeling they're not making the most of their time at university," he said.

Mr Kelly said at the University of Ulster many students commute and so do not build up a close relationship with the university staff and sometimes do not realise the support structures that are in place for them.

"The university is now addressing that - we've seen smaller class sizes introduced for first year students," he said.

"We've also seen now all students are given time with an academic member of staff who is now their studies advisor and they're there to give them support and guidance."

Roll calls also being used to identify people when people are regularly missing classes, with emails being sent out to find out why.