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European Commission: Study on Dropout and Completion in Higher Education in Europe

A new comparative study titled Dropout and Completion in Higher Education in Europe, produced jointly by the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) for the European Commission, looks into the current state of study success in Europe-s higher education systems. In line with the Europe 2020 headline target of having at least a 40% tertiary education attainment rate amongst 30 to 34 year-olds, reducing dropout and increasing completion rates in higher education should be high on the national and institutional agendas. Drawing on data from 35 European countries, the study takes stock of study success policies and explores their effectiveness at both national and institutional level.

The report notes that the devotion to ensuring student success varies across Europe, ranging from having no to little importance on the policy agenda in Cyprus, Iceland, Latvia and the Slovak Republic, to placing high or very high on the national agenda for example in Sweden, Serbia, Greece and France. Overall, study success is considered important in 75% of the surveyed countries. European countries employ different definitions of study success: completion, time-to-degree and retention. There is no uniform approach to student success, and the main instruments used to address student success are financial incentives, information and support services for students, and organisational measures. A major message of the study is that countries that place more importance on study success and have clear objectives for it tend to have in place a more effective mix of policies, which allows them to address different aspects of study success. 

The authors put forward a number of recommendations for boosting study success. Policy makers in Europe lack systematic knowledge about the effectiveness of policies addressing study success, and there is a need for discussing the issue on the European level and agreeing on key definitions and explicit indicators for measuring study success. At the national level, systematic collecting and monitoring of data on study success along with making this information public can make providers accountable for outcomes and guide student choice. To support the social and academic integration of students, institutions can formulate adequate monitoring, counselling and mentoring systems. 

European Commission

Executive Summary (available in English, French and German)

Full report