Dropout from university courses at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: an approach from multivariate content analysis (GG241257)

Finantial Entity: 
UAB - Applied Pedagogy Dept.
January 2011

The problem of dropout directly affects the quality of education centres, especially in terms of the challenge of achieving a sense of belonging and integration of students with respect to the institution. This feeling is for Tinto (1975) one of the factors that most influence permanence on courses. Research from the 1990s has shown that there is a large number of variables associated to dropping out, as classified by Bourdages (1996):

a) Demographic: age, sex, marital status, ethnic origin, social origin.
b) Contextual: family, employment, material conditions, geographic conditions, life changes.
c) Institutional: course, pedagogic aid received, projects, tutorials and counsel.
d) Characteristics of the learner: style of learning, motivation, perception of courses and curriculums on offer.

Also, in consideration of the latest appreciations of the Bologna agreements on the European Higher Education Space that demand higher rates of performance and success in studies, other variables are involved that are no less important, such as (Beaupère et al., 2007) the organization of studies, the hierarchisation of specializations and certificates, and the difficulties and obstacles that students face not only during their studies by also once they leave and seek employment.

Researchers and theorists of university dropout have dealt with different elements that we can summarise here. First of all, we must distinguish between two types of determinant: the social and the economic or macrosocial, and individual, or more personal or microsocial, ones. Among the former, there are many ways of focusing on dropouts. On the one hand, there is the analysis of the democratisation (and therefore massification) of higher education, the hidden selection by social class and level, the weight of the education received prior to university, the role of orientation and the inevitable obstacles of poorly focused orientation, and on the other hand, the different philosophies of university offer, which are not always sufficiently selfless or open. The latter determinants, the individual, include: the consequences of human capital theory (which do not always coincide with the vocational objectives of universities); the time a person spends in secondary education, which has a notable influence on dropout; orientation of the choices available to students in order for them to be able to construct a personal life project, the different types of students and the ways that they experience academic life and other determinants, of which family factors are of particular importance.

The aim of this project is to analyse the extent to which the personal, social and academic factors highlighted in the literature are manifested in the students that drop out of courses at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. An in-depth knowledge of these factors is fundamental for planning personal and institutional tutorial actions, as well as for guiding activities dealing with the transition from secondary to university education that are being implemented.

The idea is therefore to delimitate the profile of students that drop out of university or change course in consideration of their personal  characteristics and contextual, social and institutional factors (including pedagogic factors).

There is a need to analyse the internal factors that accompany dropout behaviour, and to seek ways of delimitating the personal expectations, perceptions, attitudes and options. Knowledge of these will help to better adapt any orientation and tutorial actions that are programmed, and at the same time help to clarify the subjective factors of university dropout.

Funding: 1.500 €

Project members: 

David Rodríguez (UAB, Coord.), Mònica Feixas (UAB), José Luís Muñoz (UAB) y Marita Navarro (UAB)

Campus d'excel·lència internacional U A B