Completion Analysis – 2008/09, 2009/10 & 2010/11 Entrants

3 of every 4 undergraduate entrants complete and graduate, based on a detailed analysis of completion rates for 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 entrants to higher education.

However, completion rates vary substantially across sectors, institutes, fields of study and student cohorts. At sector level: Colleges, mainly comprised of teaching trainees, have the highest completion rates at 93%-94%. University rates are steady at 83% across all three entrant cohorts. Rates are lower in Institutes of Technology (65%-66% across the three cohorts), particularly at NFQ levels 6 and 7 (60%-62%). Note: Only level 8 entrants are analysed in the University and College sectors, level 6 & 7 entrant numbers are very low in both sectors.

Figure 1: Completion Rates by Institute

Figure 2: Completion Rates, per 100 Students

The computing field of study continues to have the lowest rates of completion overall, with rates nationally between 55%-56% for the cohorts in this analysis.

Rates of completion in the education field of study are highest across all three cohorts, ranging from 92%-94%, albeit the rates decrease 1 percentage point for each subsequent cohort.

The other fields with particularly low completion rates are engineering, manufacturing and construction and services. The other fields with particularly high completion rates are health and welfare, social sciences and agriculture & veterinary.

Figure 3: Comparison of New Entrants to Non-Completers, by Field of Study

Figures 4 & 5 below look at the performance of course areas within institutes. Figure 4 shows the actual completion rates by course area for areas with >10 students. The grey shaded area represents the middle 50% of course areas in the analysis. Therefore, the areas lower than the grey shaded area are those with relatively low completion rates and those higher than the shaded area are those with relatively high completion rates. The size of the circles represent the number of students.

However, the student mix by course area (detailed fields within institutes) tends to vary substantially, in terms of entry points and gender etc. In order to compare like with like, Figure 5 shows the results of an actual v expected completion rates analysis by course area. Expected rates are based on the student mix in each course area and rates observed for similar students across the system, a fairer measure of performance for each course area. Completion rates are lower than expected for the course areas shaded in red and higher than expected for the course areas shaded in blue. Only areas with >100 students and where LC points data are available are included in the analysis presented in Figure 5.

Figure 4: Completion Rates by Course Area (Detailed Fields within Institutes)

Figure 5: Actual v Expected Completion Rates by Course Area

There is a substantial difference in completion rates by gender. For all three entrant cohorts combined, the female completion rate is 81.1%, compared to 69.7% for males – a gap of over 11 percentage points. Females outperform males on average across most fields of study, in terms of both completion rates and final grades (when firsts and upper seconds are combined). Figure 6 below divides the student population into 4 distinct groups, by gender and sector, and compares the proportion of each group in the population to the proportion of non-completers accounted for by each group.

Figure 6: Comparison of New Entrants to Non-Completers, by Gender/Sector

The key factor driving differences by gender and in general across the system, is Leaving Certificate points at entry. High Leaving Certificate points at entry are associated with a relatively high probability of completion, low points at entry are associated with a relatively low probability of completion. Less than half (49%) of those that enter with under 300 LC points complete, compared with 93% of those that enter with over 500 points. Across the majority of student cohorts, and within course areas, the mean LC points for those that complete are substantially higher than the mean LC points for those that do not complete (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: Difference in Mean Leaving Certificate Points by Completion Status

Figure 8: Comparison of New Entrants to Non-Completers, by Leaving Certificate Points

In addition to Leaving Certificate points, grades in Leaving Certificate Mathematics and English are found to be strong predictors of performance in higher education. This holds true down to course area level within institutes, those that complete tend to enter with higher grades on average than their peers that do not complete. Leaving Certificate Mathematics grade is found to be a particularly strong predictor of performance in higher education.

Figure 9: Distribution of LC Mathematics and English Grades by Completion Status

Although headline completion rates are lower for those from lower SES backgrounds and for those for DEIS schools, logistic regression models show that Leaving Certificate points largely drive these differences and once accounted for, performance for such students compares favourably. In the case of students from DEIS schools, they outperform those from grind schools, on average, when otherwise like-for-like students are compared. Detailed regression model results are available in the full data release (link at end of page).

Figure 10: Completion Rates by Socio-Economic Group

Rates of progression to postgraduate level are relatively low in Institutes of Technology (3% progress to NFQ level 9 internally across the sector). Across the Universities, 18% progress internally to NFQ level 9. Of the universities, NUI Galway has the highest proportion of entrants that go on to level 9 internally (25%). Trinity College Dublin has the lowest proportion (7%). When considering graduations across HEIs, rather than internally alone, rates of progression to level 9 are considerably higher, as per Figure 11 below.

Figure 11: Highest NFQ Level Achieved Across Institutes

Of the initial almost 28,000 non-completers across all three entrant cohorts, over 17% go on to graduate in another Irish HEI in the following years. However, this proportion varies considerably across sectors/HEIs (26% for Universities, 13% for Institutes of Technology) and LC points (9% for those with <300 points compared to 40% for those with >500 points).

The full data release contains more detailed analysis and results.

Go to full data release

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