What makes a students university experience ‘successful’?

A thought provoking article on The Conversation entitled  “The typical university student is no longer 18, middle-class and on campus – we need to change thinking on ‘drop-outs’ ” brought up some concerning points, including:

  • Drop out rates measured inaccurately.
  • Increasingly diversified student populations.
  • Why the average student is at university?


The article reports drop out rates can mistakenly include students that have taken a break from study greater than a year, but subsequently returned. To label these students as ‘drop-outs’ does not seem accurate. Once these people complete a degree, is it ever captured, or are they forever labelled a ‘drop-out’ in our antiquated reporting systems?

While University funding in Australia is beyond my horizon of understanding I can only hope that measures of drop-out and completion rates are contextualised by some form of quality and student experience measures.


Firstly, an important distinction not made in the article was the demographics of ‘completion cohort‘ versus ‘student summary‘. While both are important, they represent quite different populations. The figures of the ‘completion cohort’ represent students who have completed their study, whilst the ‘student summary’ reflects students currently undertaking study (2015 data currently available).

The data points to a general shift from ‘traditional’ students coming straight from high school to a more diverse cohort that are in a more complex stage of life. Student support at university should be reflecting the changes in the student composition, and as the article suggests, measurement of ‘student attrition’ needs to take into account the complex responsibilities of todays’ students.


Whilst important to align with strategies and focus of governmental bodies, the University Experience should also be reflecting student demand.  If, for example, there are  ‘students’ who wish to increase their knowledge and capability and are not solely focused on achieving ‘completion’ they should be recognised and supported by universities and government alike.

Posted by Alana Mailey

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