High college drop-out rate for maths does not equal a bright future

11 Jan 2016

A new report to be released by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) shows that Irish students on maths-related courses at third-level are dropping like flies, with up to 80pc failing to progress to second year in some cases.

The number of college dropouts is most prevalent in the field of computer science, where across colleges, institutes of technology and universities combined, one-third of these students fail to make the grade and pass into the second year of their studies.

According to The Irish Times, which has covered the report prior to its release, the HEA authors paint a grim picture of the continuing “severe skills shortage” in the ICT sector, despite the fact that Ireland’s hiring number in tech continues to grow, with the results for this report being compiled from 2012 to 2014.

While some might be quick to point to the failure rates in less-established colleges, universities have also been shown to have had a poor return for second year, including Trinity College Dublin (TCD), which has been shown to have a 50pc drop-out rate in its Computer Science and Language course.

The highest rate of ICT-related course dropouts as a whole came from institutes of technology, accounting for 29pc of their overall numbers failing to make it to second year, followed by colleges with 23pc and universities with 15pc.

Offering a warning and advice for future years, the report questions the level of understanding among students entering these courses: “We must be careful that the correct students are being selected for these courses with sufficient levels of academic preparedness, particularly in the areas of higher-level maths ability.”

At odds with job availability in tech sector

Looking broadly at all the universities, the University of Limerick had the highest non-progression rate overall for those taking honours degrees, with 12pc failing to making it past the first year.

Adding further worry for some Irish institutions, a request under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a high drop-out rate for a number of courses, including Limerick IT’s Pharmaceutical and Forensic Analysis course, which saw just two of its 18 students make it through to second year.

Meanwhile, IT Tralee’s Computing with Games Development course saw 80pc of its applicants not going on to second year.

All of these figures would appear to not be in sync with sentiments expressed by groups like Hays Recruitment, which recently said to Siliconrepublic.com that opportunities are now rife for graduates seeking to enter the tech sector.

Updated 5pm, 12 January 2016: This article was updated to reflect that it was the Computing with Games Development course at IT Tralee, not Carlow IT, which saw an 80pc non-progression rate for first-year students. Siliconrepublic.com apologises to Carlow IT for this error.

College lecture hall image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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