Large gender gap in the number of people who complete college courses


Male students with relatively low Leaving Cert points are most at risk of not completing their third level course.

New figures show that the proportion of students who complete their third level course is much higher among women (81%) than among men (71%).

Women also outperform men academically, with a higher proportion of women graduating first class or 2:1 in their final exams.

High dropout rates are a major problem for young men, especially those taking computer courses at institutes of technology. Nearly 60 percent of these students failed to complete these courses at the Ordinary Diploma or Higher Certificate level.

The findings are contained in a study by the Higher Education Authority which followed more than 34,000 students who started third level courses in the 2007/08 academic year (tracked over a 10-year period ).

The gender gap is present at all institutions and levels of study, although it varies significantly by college and level of study.

For example, at IT Blanchardstown, most men (52%) do not complete their education, while the equivalent rate for women is much lower (29%).

In contrast, in UCD, the dropout rate for men and women was the same (18%).

According to the report, this indicates that socioeconomic factors may have more influence on completion rates among men, given that UCD is in a more affluent area.

Top points

Another key factor is the difference in Leaving Cert points upon entry, as women tend to enter with significantly higher points.

There is also evidence that better-off students are more likely to complete higher education, although the picture is mixed.

For example, students from “higher vocational” and agricultural backgrounds have the lowest dropout rates (16 percent), while those from a semi-skilled background had the highest rates (29 percent). ).

Students from disadvantaged schools had a higher failure rate (35%) compared to mainstream schools (28%) and fee-paying schools (24%).

However, students from disadvantaged backgrounds do just as well as those from well-to-do backgrounds in certain specialized courses, with a dropout rate of between 9 and 10%.

For Dublin students, based on postcode, students from Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 have the highest completion rates at 87% and 85% respectively. Those in Dublin 24 and Dublin 10 have the lowest completion rates, at 67% and 65% respectively.


When the figures are broken down by students’ country of origin, they also show striking differences.

Indian students had the highest failure rates (50%), while Chinese also had a higher than average dropout rate (28%).

The Irish student dropout rate (24%) is in line with the overall average.

Non-Irish students were more likely than their Irish counterparts to achieve a very good or 2:1.

One of the most striking findings of the study is the relationship between prior academic achievement and student achievement.

Students entering higher education with lower Leaving Cert points are more likely to not complete their course compared to their higher performing peers.

For example, a student who entered college with between 505 and 550 Leaving Cert points has a 6% chance of dropping out.

This compares to a 51% chance of dropping out for students who enter with between 205 and 250 Leaving Cert points.


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