Informing Institutional Management: institutional strategies and student retention

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


  • Informing Institutional Management: institutionalstrategies and student retention

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt

    IntroductionAccording to Trow (1974, 2006), the massification of higher education systemsincreases diversity in response to a larger student population with a greatervariety of abilities and interests. A further effect is that the number ofstudents leaving before degree completion is bound to grow. Mass highereducation also brings widened participation and institutions can no longerassume that all students are equally motivated or well-prepared for the coursethey have chosen, which may also result in some leaving before degreecompletion.

    Compared to their American counterparts, European universities have takenless responsibility for preventing student departure. Historically, retention hasbeen a much more prominent issue on the research agenda in the US thananywhere else in the world. However, much research on the issue has beencarried out in Australia (McInnis & James 2004) and the UK (Yorke 1999,2000; Longden 2006;Yorke & Longden 2004, 2008). In Norway, there has beenrelatively little focus on these issues until recently. Higher education institutionsare now expected to provide a satisfactory input-output ratio of students andfind efficient strategies to benefit the institutions, the students and society as awhole. The inefficiency of higher education systems, high student departure ratesand excessive time taken for degree completion have become pressing Europeanconcerns.

    Student departure and retention are complex issues. A 2008 OECD reportquotes several potential causes for student departure: poor academic prepara-tion prior to enrolment, poor match of offerings and consumer demand foreducation, students poor financial situation and a lack of career guidance(OECD, 2008). The main focus of the literature has been on the characteristicsof students who choose to leave higher education (Noel et al, 1985; Johnes,1990). However, what happens at the higher education institution seems to be moreimportant than what students bring to education (Tinto, 1993). Tintos modelhas provided the basis for normative suggestions, recommending that reten-tion initiatives be taken by higher education institutions (Tinto, 1993;Yorke 1999). Empirically-based information on the measures that can encour-age study progress and are used by higher education institutions is morelimited.

    Research QuestionIn this article, we examine whether strategies to reduce student departurerates and increase retention rates are incorporated in higher education insti-tutions strategies and the policies and activities they develop to supportstudy progress and prevent student departure. The following questions areaddressed:


    European Journal of Education, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2013

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA02148, USA.

  • To what extent do universities view low retention rates as a problem? What types of measures do institutions, and more specifically Norwegian uni-

    versities, employ to promote retention?

    The Norwegian ContextStudy programmes at Norwegian universities have traditionally been looselyorganised, especially in humanities and social sciences, and to some extent inscience. Students had great freedom to choose a combination of subjects andteaching was mainly based around lectures. They were expected to spend a greatdeal of time on independent study. There were few assessments and little feed-back during the semesters, only a final examination after six months or even afull year. Success or failure was very much the students responsibility andinstitutions paid little attention to those who failed or did not complete theirstudies.

    The Quality Reform passed by Parliament in 2001 aimed to increase insti-tutional responsibility for students learning and completion, but also set out tostrengthen student commitment, participation and effort. The reform was imple-mented in 2003 and the degree system was changed from 4 + 2 years to 3 + 2years, in line with the Bologna Process. However, the adaptation to the BolognaProcess in different countries is closely linked to the pre-reform characteristics ofeach countrys higher education system (Witte, 2006). One feature of the newsystem was that programmes became more strictly organised, with pre-set com-binations of required courses to complete a specific programme. Reforms aimingat improving teaching quality have been ongoing since the 1990s, but the QualityReform built up the momentum by introducing different forms of assessmentand encouraging written assignments (Dysthe, 2002; 2007).

    Another important change was the introduction of performance-basedfunding, which allocated money according to the number of students who suc-ceeded in their studies and focused institutional attention on completion. Beforethe reform, there was little concern regarding high departure rates, but whenuniversity revenue became dependent on the number of graduates, interest inretention and dropout rates increased. These changes in the funding system canbe seen as a rider or add on to the Bologna implementation process (Frlichet al, 2010).

    Data and MethodsThis article is based on a case study of three Norwegian universities strategicplans and 18 interviews with administrative staff and faculty members under-taken in 2006. The strategic plans were retrieved from the universitieshomepages.

    The case study analysis is mirrored against a 2005 student survey which wasa retrospective study of the cohort who had started their undergraduate degreein humanities, social sciences or sciences in autumn 1999 at one of the threelargest universities in Norway. A sample of 3,537 students was drawn from uni-versity records. The survey showed that about 50% of the students did notcontinue at the university where they started their studies and 17% dropped outof higher education altogether. Students from less educated families and/or withlower grades in upper secondary school seem to be at greater risk of droppingout than those from more educated families or with higher grades. In contrast,

    166 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • the decision to transfer between institutions was not related to previous school-ing or family background, but rather to motivation and field of study. Studentswith no clear educational goal and those who started their education in humani-ties or social science were more likely to transfer than those with a specificeducational goal or who studied science (Hovdhaugen, 2009). Men were foundto have a higher risk of dropping out than women, but no gender differences interms of transfer were found. Age had an impact on both transfer and dropout:older students were much less likely to transfer, but were more likely to dropout. One interpretation is that they may be more determined in their educationalgoals and know what type of qualification they are aiming for, but the economicconstraints of being a student might be more difficult for them. Another couldbe that they faced difficulties related to returning to schooling after many yearsof work (Hovdhaugen & Aamodt, 2005). However, an analysis of studentsreasons for leaving their higher education institution suggests that its ability toinfluence their decision is very limited. Most students reasons for leavingincluded circumstances that went beyond university control, such as seeking atype of education that their university did not provide or issues related toworking while studying. The only way for institutions to try to discouragestudent departure seems to be by creating closer contact between students andteachers (Hovdhaugen & Aamodt, 2009).

    Analytical FrameworkWe combine a sociological perspective on student retention with organisa-tional theory perspectives in order to provide a framework in which we discussreasons for student departure, potential institutional measures to address depar-ture and the higher education institutions room for manoeuvre to enhanceretention.

    A Sociological Perspective on Student Retention

    There are many reasons why students leave university before degree completion.Historically, there has been a focus on characteristics, exploring how students wholeave differ from those who complete their studies. Tinto (1993) argues that whathappens at the institution has a much greater influence on the decision to leavethan student characteristics. At the institution, the students social and academicintegration will influence their decision to continue to study at that specificinstitution. Integration, be it social or academic or both, creates a sense ofbelonging and reduces the risk of departure. In the past, measures to enhanceretention focused on creating more social and academic integration. Effectivesocial and academic integration is related to what Tinto (1993) refers to ascongruence: the extent to which students values and opinions are in line withthose of their university, department and peers. Integration is much harder toachieve when there is incongruence between a students values and those of theirinstitution.

    A sense of belonging could also result from how well students feel they fit intothe university or their academic programme. This is thought to be affected bytheir background. Mastekaasa and Hansen (2005) showed that the number ofstudents leaving university and transferring to a university college was lowestamong those from well-educated families. Hovdhaugen (2009) found that thosefrom less educated families had a greater risk of dropping out. Such findings are

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 167

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • assumed to be related to differences in students access to cultural capital.According to Bourdieu (1984), a person possesses capital in different forms, thetwo most influential being cultural capital and economic capital. Peoplesamount of capital influences their habitus or disposition which inclines agents toact and react in certain ways (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 12). Hence, students habituswill tend to be class distinctive and lead them to pursue the outcomes they aremore likely to obtain. This maintains the established class positions in a society.As bearers of cultural capital in society, higher education institutions also have aform of habitus (Rey et al, 2001; Thomas, 2002). It may be understood as theimpact of a cultural group or social class on an individuals behaviour as it ismediated through an organization (Rey et al, 2001, section 1.3). The congru-ence between students and institutions habitus influences integration: studentsare more likely to succeed and complete their degree if their institution has ahabitus which is in harmony with their own and if they feel a sense of belonging.The type of habitus found at each institution will vary and some institutions mayhave a more inclusive habitus than others (Thomas, 2002). Hence, the institu-tions awareness of the types of students they attract and accept could influencetheir ability to retain these. According to this perspective, student departure canbe seen as a natural phenomenon due to mismatches between students andinstitutions habituses. To increase their base of potential students, the institu-tions can put in place different measures which cater for broader groups ofstudents.

    A perspective that assumes that the students and the institutions habitus mustbe in line for students to succeed can be seen as one which places inevitable limitson the range of students who can develop and prosper at any particular institution.However, in this article, we take the view that some institutions have a morewide-reaching habitus that takes diversity into account and some have a habitusthat is narrower in scope and can be changed to make it more or less open orwide-reaching. Because of massification, institutions have to cater for a wider rangeof students. Thus, the habitus the institution is projecting could limit the oppor-tunities for all students to perform well at that institution.

    An Organisational Perspective on Student Retention

    Which strategies and measures do higher education institutions develop to preventstudent departure? An organisational perspective provides the basis of two diverg-ing views: the rationalist view and the institutionalist view.

    According to the rationalist view, institutions respond to economic incentives(Scott & Davis, 2007). Strategy development is based on an agreement about theneed to prevent departure and put in place well-designed measures which increasestudents social and academic integration. This does not question the organisa-tions ability to establish strategic goals which are based on an analysis of theinstitutions market position (Chandler, 1962). Hence, the most cost-effectivestrategies would tend to be ranked by organisational members. Thus, if institu-tions economic rewards or funding are to be determined by student course anddegree completion, we could expect them to change their strategies to includemeasures that enhance completion.

    An institutionalist view directly challenges the rationalist view (Brunsson &Olsen, 1997; March & Olsen, 1984; Meyer & Rowan, 1977). It focuses on thesymbolic aspects of organisational goals, the ritualistic aspects of strategy

    168 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • implementation, the importance of the organisations normative basis, the looselycoupled character of organisations and the path-dependent character of organi-sational processes. It is especially relevant for higher education institutions, oftencharacterised as organised anarchies (Olsen, 1971). This leads us to expect insti-tutions strategies to be loosely coupled with measures to prevent student depar-ture; organisational practices which aim to enhance student completion precedeorganisational strategies which aim to prevent student departure and reflect theinstitutional management (leadership), echoing external (policy) expectationsconcerning better student completion.The traditional norm of academic freedomprovides faculty members with great autonomy from the institutional manage-ment, potentially hampering the efficient implementation of managerial strate-gies. Based on the loosely coupled organisational practices in teaching andlearning (i.e. pedagogical measures) might as well not be reflected in the overallinstitutional strategies since academic departments may well live their own lives.Moreover, the institutionalist view presents institutional culture as collegial,communicative and argumentative, rather than steered by top-down decision-making.


    Based on the literature review of these two perspectives, we can propose thefollowing expectations regarding our findings. The argument that students shouldbe socially and academically integrated in the institution (Tinto, 1993; Pascarella& Terenzini, 1991, 2005) has influenced Norwegian institutions in their work toenhance retention by developing measures that target students in their first year.We therefore assume that much of their efforts will focus on employing strategiesto increase social and academic integration. Since this approach rests on well-established theories and evidence, we expect these types of measures to have beenin place before the comprehensive reform of 2003.

    The perspective of institutional and individual habitus and the assumption oftraditional, loose coupling between students and institutions also lead us to assumethat institutions, to some extent, will view student departure as a natural phenom-enon. However, this could be linked to at least two ways of interpreting departureas natural. It may be founded on the assumption that some students were eithernot well enough prepared or did not fit into the institution in other ways.However, it can also be linked to the institutions awareness of their own habitusand how well it matches the range of habituses amongst the students they cater to.Hence, institutions with a broader or more diverse habitus could be able toaccommodate a wider range of students. It is hard to determine which of theseinterpretations prevails in any given situation or institution.

    If we take a rationalist perspective on strategy formulation and implementationas a starting point, performance-based funding induces higher education institu-tions to enhance strategies aiming at student completion. Hence, we expect themto be more aware of the cost of low retention rates and that their actions to preventstudent departure are, to some extent, economically motivated and that this will beclearly stated in the strategy plans.

    Based on an institutionalist perspective, we would expect the overall institu-tional strategies to show less evidence of economic rationales in their efforts toimprove completion rates. Measures to improve completion have been on thenational policy agenda and have been put in place by the institutions in the last

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 169

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • decade, long before any economic incentives for such action were introduced.Performance-based funding that rewards student completion is more recent.Hence, we expect the institutional strategies to take an approach to studentcompletion which resembles loose packages of goals and measures rather thanstringent strategies with clear aims and measures.

    Based on the well-established complexity of strategy implementation and onthe nature of higher education institutions as loosely-coupled or anarchic organi-sations, we do not expect strategy implementation of student retention to be in linewith an instrumental, top-down process which solely responds to economic incen-tives. Rather, we expect a wider set of mechanisms around performance-basedfunding, leading to greater awareness of the problems of student departure and itsnegative organisational consequences (both economically and socially). The argu-mentative and communicative culture of higher education institutions leads us toexpect that greater awareness may in itself have a considerable organisationalimpact on measures to reduce student departure.

    Empirical AnalysisThe empirical analysis is primarily structured from the perspective of the highereducation institutions, supported by students views on reasons for leaving andwhat their institution could do to improve retention. From the perspective of theinstitutions, we study their knowledge about retention and their assessment ofthe phenomenon of student departure, as well as the types of retention measuresthey have developed and how these are managed. From the students perspec-tive, we discuss the institutions ability to encourage them to complete theirstudies. Two core issues are addressed in this article: the extent to which insti-tutions view low retention rates as a problem; and what they are doing topromote retention.

    Are Low Retention Rates Seen as a Problem?

    There are several ways of viewing retention problems at an institution which gobeyond seeing them as an economic problem or as a natural effect of the system.Some see it as a natural phenomenon that one cannot expect all students tocomplete their studies. This is in line with Trows (1974) argument that dropoutrates can be expected to be higher in a mass higher education system than in anlite system. It also corresponds to the argument that not all students and insti-tutions are a good fit: their respective habituses may be too different so thatstudents are more likely to leave the institution. This perspective is not veryprominent amongst the interviewees; the institutions generally have a vague ideaof which students are leaving. Also, many students may not be satisfied withtheir initial choice of field of study and transfer between institutions or subjectsto find the right education. This type of mobility has existed for a long timeand can be seen as a distinctive trait of Norwegian higher education. It can beviewed as desirable, both for the individual and for society, assuming that stu-dents who transfer tend to find an education that is a better match. This helpsto explain why some university staff still view student departure as somethingnatural.

    An effect of performance-based funding is that institutions have begun to viewretention as a financial problem. Since the change in the funding system, anystudent leaving before degree completion now leads to a loss of revenue. From a

    170 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • university perspective, this makes mobility between institutions less desirable, asthe institution will get less funding if all students who are admitted do notgraduate. Before the reform, the number of students leaving before degree com-pletion was calculated alongside the number of admitted students. Therefore theloss of some students was taken into account. In addition, institutions were fundedaccording to the number of students who started studying. Hence, they gotpaid for all the students they educated and for those who did not complete theirstudies.

    The focus on retention is not just due to new financial consequences. Reten-tion problems can also be seen in terms of reputation. Some institutions areconcerned that it could have negative consequences for their reputation if theirretention rate was known to be low. However, until now, retention rates were notpublished in the media and there has been little focus on these rates amongst thepublic. For the time being, the risk posed in terms of institutional reputation isnot very dramatic, but several interviewees commented that this might be afuture effect.

    Another way of viewing retention, according to our informants, is as a technicalproblem. When the institution does not know how to measure retention andunderstand its causes, it is hard to analyse or address it. From the institutionspoint of view, students who leave is a problem, no matter whether they leave highereducation altogether or go to another institution or why they do so. In an institu-tional context, retention refers to all students leaving the institution, those trans-ferring and those dropping out. Some take a break in their studies, and from aninstitutional perspective, this may also be considered as a retention problem.Whenit comes to the technical aspects of measuring retention rates in a given year, thesetypes of departure or suspension of studies become important information.However, the institutions are concerned by the fact that the registration of whenand why students leave is not good enough and students who only have a stop-out(Tinto, 1993) in their studies are recorded as lost students. Therefore, thosemoving in and out of the system and between institutions must be taken intoaccount and the universities will have to work together to solve this technicalproblem.

    Most of the interviewees knowledge of student departure is characterised by alack of a good definition of what this actually involves and awareness that there isno common approach for measuring dropout.The institutions believe that they donot have good enough data to measure retention. So the interviewees opinion onretention at their own institution is, to a large extent, based on their general beliefor assumptions, rather than on any data. They acknowledge that there are differ-ences in retention rates between different fields of study.

    Measures to Enhance Retention

    The interviews and the analyses of strategy documents suggest that the universi-ties strategies and activities to promote retention are loosely coupled. Retentionissues are not present in any of the three institutions strategy plans. However,some representatives of the institutions believe that the focus on retention is fairlynew to their institution; this could explain why it has not yet been incorporated inthe strategy plans.

    Based on the document analysis and the interviews, we identified five cat-egories of retention measures used by higher education institutions:

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 171

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • organisation of the studies; progression and mastering of the studyprogrammes; pedagogical measures; socialisation; and goal orientation. However,we did note that these were being put together to create a formal retentionstrategy. Moreover, universities aiming at lower student departure ratesgenerally use blanket measures, lumping together all students, regardlessof whether they are leaving to study at other institutions or dropping outaltogether.

    Organisation of the Studies

    Several measures described by the university personnel concern the organisationof the studies. Following the Quality Reform, institutions developed a broadrange of study programmes in the framework of the degree reform. Hence, pro-grammes became more strictly organised and modularised, leaving fewer optionsfor students. Another new feature of the Qualification Frameworks is that theformulations of what the students should learn and know after completing aprogramme, the so called learning outcome goals, have become more specificand explicit. It is also specified in the institutions strategy plans that all pro-grammes should have explicit learning goals. The focus of these goals is onproviding information and creating a predictable study programme so that stu-dents can make informed choices. Another aim of the reorganisation of thestudies is to make it easier for students to access teachers and professors. Thishas been done via pedagogical measures and by reducing the student-teacherratio.

    Progression and Mastering of the Studies

    The reforms have also brought new measures to monitor students progressionwith the establishment of educational plans through administrative routines, allow-ing students with little or no study progression to be tracked via the student data.In addition, these students can lose their study place. They must reapply tocontinue the programme.They are also offered counselling: they are called in to ameeting to talk about the programme, coursework and general well-being. Prior tothe reform, students had to actively seek such advice and counselling. However,not all students who are offered counselling seize the opportunity. Anothermeasure is to offer courses in study techniques.This has been developed since thereform. Now, courses in study techniques are taught locally, in departments and asan integrated part of the study programme, whilst before the reform they were runby the university administration.

    Pedagogical Measures

    Pedagogical measures have been used to improve students learning and keepthem in their programme. An important aspect of the Quality reform is toimprove teaching quality and give students more feedback and guidance. Therehas been a focus on using the best lecturers early on in the studies and to engagethe students more actively. This can also be seen as an attempt to enhanceintegration. The main focus of research universities is on research, but they haveput greater emphasis on improving the staffs pedagogical competences. Forexample, new staff must take a course in pedagogy when they start teaching. Boththe organisation and the content of the instruction students receive are indirectthemes in the strategy plans.

    172 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • Socialisation

    An important institutional measure is to improve students social and academicintegration. Institutions have long had measures to enhance integration amongstudents, but, since the reform, they have been developed. They focus on creatinga sense of belonging amongst a cohort or a class in a specific programme, ratherthan simply fostering a sense of being a student. The measures mainly involvecreating social arenas where students can meet outside the class. However, theway in which they are welcomed by the institution when they arrive is alsoimportant. This is in line with Tintos (1993) argument that institutions mustprovide opportunities for new students to become socially and academicallyintegrated.

    Goal orientation

    Goal or labour market orientation is a relatively new feature in Norwegiangeneral university education and can also be seen as a measure to enhanceretention by providing students with more information. Because of increasingcompetition between study programmes, there is a growing need for careerdays and information on the types of jobs students can find after completinga degree. The strategy plans also argue for greater focus on work orientationwithin study programmes. This can also be seen as an adjustment that is encour-aged by the discussion on employability in the Bologna Process (Aamodt et al,2010).

    DiscussionTwo major political aims of the Norwegian Quality Reform were to improve studyprogression and reduce dropout rates. Several measures were introduced toachieve this, involving reforms of the degrees and curricula and performance-based funding. While the degree and curricular changes were directly required bythe Bologna Process, the other measures were mainly add-ons that served toimprove study progression (Frlich et at, 2010).

    The issues of retention and student departure are not explicitly spelled out inthe institutions strategic plans, since most plans were prepared before the reformand these issues were not as important for institutions before its implementation.However, there is still general concern about student non-completion amonguniversity personnel. Due to performance-based funding, we expected institutionsto give economic motives for their efforts to enhance retention, but it seems thatthere is a broader range of motives at work. The notion of low retention rates assomething natural still exists in some fields of study, but there are also other, morepurposeful perspectives.The institutions view high rates of student departure as athreat to their image as an institution that delivers high quality teaching and henceto their attractiveness for future students. All the institutions state that they takeretention issues seriously, but most do not yet seem to have a definite plan. Theyare mentioned in the strategic plans, although indirectly through goals connectedto completion rates: the issue has been present in this form for some time.

    Although there are no explicit strategic goals connected to retention, allthe universities have measures that aim at reducing student departure. We foundmany measures that encourage and support completion, although they are notformally presented as a retention strategy. Several fit well with both Tintos

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 173

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • recommendations and with a rationalist perspective. These measures includeimproved goal orientation, pedagogical measures and organisation of the studies. Othermeasures can be seen as following from one or other of the perspectives on efficientretention strategies, such as socialisation, which is in line with Tintos recommen-dations, and progression and mastering of the studies, which clearly follow from arationalist, output-based perspective.

    Some of the measures have existed for some time, such as those to improvenew students integration. However, most have been introduced since thereform. A defining characteristic of the measures that existed before the reformis that they were mainly related to improving students social and academicintegration. To some extent, they are inspired by the work of American scholarssuch as Tinto (1993) and Pascarella and Terrenzini (1991; 2005). Some newmeasures are more administrative; institutions are beginning to make use of theiradministrative routines to monitor students who do not complete their studies intime.

    The rationalist view on strategy formulation may lead institutions to assumethat student departure is partly a natural phenomenon or students own respon-sibility and that the institutions concern is mainly driven by financial reasons. Incontrast, the institutionalist view also introduces the importance of awareness ofretention issues as a potential problem and the issue of reputation as a concernfor strategy formulation. However, it seems that it is just as common for insti-tutions to view student departure as a technical problem, in the sense thatthey do not know how to measure retention in a satisfactory way. Somecommented that they thought a retention problem could easily result in a badreputation. While this has not happened yet, institutions see it as a possible effectof any increased focus on retention issues and measures of student departurerates.

    The reform has raised institutional awareness about retention issues andcreated conditions that have made the institutions take action. However, actionand awareness have not yet been translated into strategies that steer the overallinstitution. This might indicate that the general understanding of retention atinstitutions is not yet fully developed and that institutions are not aware of thedifferences between students who transfer and those who leave the higher educa-tion system altogether.

    Most of the explicit and specific measures to reduce dropout rates are of anadministrative character, for example enhanced focus on information and theestablishment and monitoring of educational plans. However, it seems that thegeneral efforts of the institutions to improve learning by addressing the qualityof teaching and introducing more student guidance and feedback are alsovery important. According to the students, these types of measures are poten-tially the most effective ways to address dropout rates (Hovdhaugen & Aamodt2009).

    ConclusionAt most institutions, retention issues are perceived as a relatively new problem.This is interesting, as Norwegian universities have had relatively low degree com-pletion rates in humanities and social sciences for at least 20 years (Aamodt, 2001).However, this may be largely due to a shift in attention given to the issue since thereform. Before the reform, long study duration was seen as the main problem,

    174 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • while less attention was paid to departures, which were perceived as a naturalaspect of the open access system. Therefore, the fact that some students wereleaving before degree completion was taken into account when deciding on thenumber of students an institution could admit. The recent interest in retention isprobably partly due to changes in the funding system from funding based on thenumber of students admitted to funding the number of students who have gradu-ated. Retention problems now result in economic consequences for the institutionand universities are therefore more likely to pay attention to potential studentdeparture problems. However, the rhetoric of the reform also focused on theproblem of attrition, or the waste that students leaving before degree completionconstitutes. As an effect of this, institutions show a genuine interest in reducingdeparture, but their conceptualisation of the issues around departure is still notvery developed and they focus on those students leaving higher education.The factthat some students leave higher education and some just transfer to other institu-tions and that these two groups might have different reasons for leaving theirinstitutions is not considered by the institutions. In light of this, they could benefitfrom improving their understanding of different types of student departure, theconsequences these involve and the measures they can take in relation to thesevarious types of departure.

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, NIFU Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation,Research and Education, Postboks 5183 Majorstuen, N-0302 Oslo, Norway,elisabeth.hovdhaugen@nifu.noNicoline Frlich, NIFU Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research andEducation, Postboks 5183 Majorstuen, N-0302 Oslo, Norway, nicoline.frolich@nifu.noPer Olaf Aamodt, NIFU Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research andEducation, Postboks 5183 Majorstuen, N-0302 Oslo, Norway,,


    AAMODT, P. O. (2001) Studiegjennomfring og Studiefrafall. En Statistisk Oversikt[Completion and dropout, a statistical overview], NIFU skriftserie 14/2001(Oslo, NIFU).

    AAMODT, P. O., HOVDHAUGEN, E. & BIELFELDT, U. (2010) Serving the society?Historical and modern interpretations of employability, Higher EducationPolicy, 23, pp. 271284

    BOURDIEU, P. (1984) DistinctionA Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Cam-bridge, Harvard University Press).

    BOURDIEU, P. (1991) Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge, Polity Press).BRUNSSON, N. & OLSEN, J. P. (1997) The Reforming Organization (Bergen,

    Fagbokforlaget).CHANDLER, A. (1962) Strategy and Structure: chapters in the history of the American

    industrial enterprise (Cambridge, MIT Press).DYSTHE, O. (2002) Writing at Norwegian universities in an international perspec-

    tive: from indirect strategies of strengthening writing to the Quality Reform,in: G. RIJLAARSDAM, L. BJRK, L. BRUER, L. RIENECKER & P. StrayJORGENSEN (Eds) Studies inWriting.Vol. 12: teaching academic writing in Euro-pean higher education, pp. 151165 (Amsterdam, Kluwer).

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 175

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • DYSTHE, O. (2007) How a reform affects writing in higher education, Studies inHigher Education, 32, pp. 237252.

    FRLICH, N., COATE, K., MIGNOT-GERARD, S. & KNILL, C. (2010) Einheit vonForschung und Lehre: implications for state funding of universities, HigherEducation Policy, 23, pp. 195211.

    HOVDHAUGEN, E. (2009) Transfer and dropout: different forms of student depar-ture in Norway, Studies in Higher Education, 34, pp. 117.

    HOVDHAUGEN, E. & AAMODT, P. O. (2005) Frafall fra universitetet. En underskelseav frafall og fullfring blant frstegangsregistrerte studenter ved Universitetet iBergen, Universitetet i Oslo og Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitetet(NTNU) hsten 1999 [University Dropout] NIFU STEP Arbeidsnotat13/2005 (Oslo, NIFU STEP).

    HOVDHAUGEN, E. & AAMODT, P. O. (2009) Learning environment: important ornot to students decision to leave university? Quality in Higher Education, 15,pp. 177189.

    JOHNES, J. (1990) Determinants of Student Wastage in Higher Education, Studiesin Higher Education 15, pp. 8799.

    LONGDEN, B. (2006) An institutional response to changing student expectationsand their impact on retention rates, Journal of Higher Education Policy andManagement, 28, pp. 173187.

    MARCH, J. G., & OLSEN, J. P. (1984) The new institutionalism: organizationalfactors in political life, American Political Science Review, 78, pp. 734749.

    MASTEKAASA A. & HANSEN, M. N. (2005) Frafall i hyere utdanning: Hvilkenbetydning har sosial bakgrunn? [Dropout in higher education: the significanceof social background], in: STATISTISK SENTRALBYR Utdanning2005deltakelse og kompetanse [Statistics Norway: Education 2005participationand competence] Statistical analyses (Oslo, Statistisk sentralbyr).

    MCINNIS, C. & JAMES, R. (2004) Access and retention in Australian highereducation, in: M. YORKE & B. LONGDEN (Eds) Retention and Student Successin Higher Education (Maidenhead, Open University Press).

    MEYER, J. W. & ROWAN, B. (1977) Institutional organizations: formal structuresas myth and ceremony, American Journal of Sociology, 83, pp. 340363.

    NOEL, L, R. LEVITZ, R. & SALURI, D. et al. (1985) Increasing Student Retention(San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers).

    NOU (2000:14) Frihet med ansvar. Om hgre utdanning og forskning i Norge[Freedom with responsibility. About higher education and research in Norway].Report from the Norwegian Commission on higher education, Mjs-commission(Oslo, Statens forvaltningstjenestes informasjonsutvalg).

    OECD (2008) Tertiary Education for the Knowledge Society.Volume 1 (Paris, OECD).OLSEN, J. P. (1971) On the theory of organizational decision-making. Unpublished

    doctoral thesis (Bergen, Universitetet i Bergen).PASCARELLA, E. T. & TERENZINI, P. T. (1991) How College Affect Students:

    findings and insights from twenty years of research (San Francisco, Jossey-BassPublishers).

    PASCARELLA, E. T. & TERENZINI, P. T. (2005) How College Affect Students: a thirddecade of research (San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers).

    REY, D., DAVID, M. & BALL, S. J. (2001) Making a difference?: Institutionalhabituses and higher education choice, Sociological Research, 5.

    176 European Journal of Education, Part II

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • SCOTT, W. R. & DAVIS, G. F. (2007) Organizations and Organizing (New Jersey,Prentice Hall).

    THOMAS, L. (2002) Student retention in higher education: the role of institutionalhabitus, Journal of Educational Policy, 17, pp. 423442.

    TINTO, V. (1993) Leaving College (2nd ed) (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).TROW, M. (1974) Problems in the Transition from Elite to Mass Higher Education.

    Policies for Higher Education. General Report on the Conference on FutureStructures of Postsecondary Education, pp. 55101 (Paris, OECD).

    TROW, M. (2006) Reflections on the transition from lite to mass to universalaccess: forms and phases of higher education in modern societies sinceWWII,in: J. J. F. FOREST & P. G. ALTBACH (Eds) International Handbook of HigherEducation (pp. 243280) (Dordrecht, Springer).

    WITTE, J. (2006) Change of Degrees and Degrees of Change: Comparing adaptation ofhigher education systems in the Context of the Bologna Process. PhD Thesis,(Enschede, University of Twente).

    YORKE, M. (1999) Leaving Early. Undergraduate non-completion in higher education(London, Falmer Press).

    YORKE, M. (2000) The quality of the student experience: what can institutionslearn from data relating to non-completion?, Quality in Higher Education, 6,pp. 6175.

    YORKE, M. & LONGDEN, B. (2004) Retention and Student Success in Higher Edu-cation (Maidenhead, Open University Press).

    YORKE, M. & LONGDEN, B. (2008) The First-year Experience of Higher Education inthe UK, Final Report (York, The Higher Education Academy).

    Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nicoline Frlich & Per Olaf Aamodt 177

    2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


View more >