Predictors of retention and achievement of higher education students within a further education context

Schofield, Cathy and Dismore, Harriet (2010). Predictors of retention and achievement of higher education students within a further education context. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(2) pp. 207–221.



Following recent developments within higher education where provision of foundation degree courses at further education colleges has been extended, it seemed appropriate to investigate the extent to which the system is working. This should not necessarily be measured by the number of students enrolling, but rather by how many are achieving their qualifications.

This research involved matching 457 higher education students’ entry data, obtained from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), with the outcome at the end of the first year of their course. Their entry profile was a combination of demographic and educational data. The outcomes were measured in terms of success through grade average for stage 1, failure by the summer award board, based on how many credits they had achieved, and withdrawal, measured by time spent on the course.

The findings suggest that there are two major predictors of retention and achievement: academic entry level and age. The higher the UCAS grade on entry, the more likely the students were to complete the course and achieve a higher grade average. A similar pattern was seen among the mature student cohorts. Possible explanations for these findings could be based on the types of skills students have previously acquired. Those with higher entry‐level qualifications may have more confidence in their academic ability. More mature students, perhaps benefiting from additional life experiences and transferable skills, may have more determination to complete their studies.

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