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Interruptions and failure in higher education: evidence from ISEG-UTL

CHAGAS LOPES, MARGARIDA and LEAO FERNANDES, GRAÇA (2011): Interruptions and failure in higher education: evidence from ISEG-UTL. Published in: European Education Research Journal , Vol. 10, No. 3 (17. October 2011): pp. 445-460.

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Abstract

Abstract Failure in Higher Education (HE) is the outcome of multiple time-dependent determinants. Interruptions in student’s individual school trajectories are one of them and that’s why research on this topic has been attracting much attention these days.

From an individual point of view, it is expected that interruptions in school trajectory, whatever the reason, influence success in undergraduate programs either this success is measured by time required to obtain a degree, the scores obtained in some more “critical” subjects in these programs or the number of enrolment registrations. Nevertheless, performing a paid job during interruption may in given circumstances positively affect academic success on account of the combination between learning and occupational experience

The study of interruptions’ impact on failure in HE is also important to help Education institutions at all grades to think about changes in organisational procedures, class timetables, syllabuses contents or teachers recruitment and training in order to fight this problem.

From a social and political point of view, interruptions are also a matter of concern since failure in HE affects individual’s lifelong learning opportunities, distort public funding allocation efficiency to HE institutions and create lag effects in the desired/planned outcomes of HE production functions. So, research on the impact of interruptions on failure in HE is important to support policy measures definition related to the articulation between Upper Secondary and HE programs.

In previous research we have shed some light into the determinants of failure in 1st year of HE studies using longitudinal data on ISEG’s undergraduate students. A further insight into this database revealed the existence of a meaningful number of students with interruptions in their school trajectories either in the transition from Upper Secondary to HE or within HE programs.

In this paper our major concern is to find some evidence on interruptions effects on HE failure among ISEG students using a life cycle approach with control group. We are interested in knowing whether the above mentioned effects are gender and/or specific graduation program neutral. We also want to search if work experience may counter balance the effect of interruption on academic success. We hope to be able to derive some useful recommendations to address policy making in the fields of pedagogic methodologies in HE, articulation between academic and occupational learning in the framework of Bologna Chart and public funding/fellowship policies in HE.

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