Skip to main content

New survey reveals Irish students are considering dropping out due to student finance and other issues. This indicates a gap in student support in Ireland.

A new survey has revealed that more than one in three Irish college students have seriously considered dropping out of their course due to student finance issues and academic or personal struggles.

In this article, we explore how institutions can prevent students from dropping out by improving the quality, effectiveness and availability of student support services.


A new survey has revealed that more than one in three Irish college students have seriously considered dropping out of their course. Reasons such as student finance, personal factors and more have been cited by students as pushing them to consider quitting college. The survey follows evidence that more students are dropping out of university amid concerns for student support provision.

The situation for Irish college students has been difficult after the Covid-19 pandemic. A previous study from earlier this year found that 30% of students in universities and colleges are experiencing “serious” financial problems. As well as this, many universities have reported a dramatic increase in demand for mental health support in recent years.

Recent figures show a total of 12 per cent of first-year students, or more than 5,100, dropping out before the second year of their course in 2021, up from 9 per cent the previous year. This highlights a concerning gap in the effective identification and timely support of these struggling students.

Student Support in Irish Universities

A recent survey on behalf of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has revealed the gaps in student support from Irish universities.

  • More than one-in-five students described the quality of their interactions with academic advisors as adequate-to-poor.
  • Nearly a quarter of students described the quality of interactions with student support services staff as adequate-to-poor.
  • Over 20% of  students described the quality of their interactions with admin offices such as student finance, as adequate-to-poor.
  • Over 50% of students said they ‘never’ discussed career plans with academic staff.
  • More than two-in-five said they ‘never’ discussed their academic performance with staff. 
  • Over 40% of students said their institutions provided some-to-very-little support to help students succeed academically. 
  • Half of students said their institutions provided some-to-very-little support for their overall well-being (recreation, health care, counselling, etc.) 

Improving Student Support and Preventing Students from Dropping Out

To support students effectively and prevent students from dropping out, it is necessary to improve the quality and availability of student support services, such as counselling, mentoring, tutoring and career guidance. These services can help students cope with their personal, academic and financial challenges, and prevent them from dropping out or underachieving.

There are a number of solutions available to Irish universities to do this.

Data-Driven Academic Advising

The first solution is to implement a system for data-driven academic advising. Data-driven academic advising utilises learning analytics and early alerts to deliver real-time information to personal tutors that can enable more effective, personalised support for students.

Using learning analytics allows academic advisors to monitor student progression, engagement and circumstances. This gives advisors greater insight into the unique challenges each student is facing, so they can support them more effectively. Whether it be student finance, academic concerns or otherwise, advisors can quickly identify students at-risk and intervene to prevent them dropping out.

Student Retention Software

Another solution is to implement student retention software. Student retention software combines data analytics, early alerts and student case management software to provide an all-in-one system to support and retain students. Complete with custom progression dashboards, staff can monitor student wellbeing, receive real-time risk alerts and book student interventions from one system.

Student retention software can take data from multiple sources, such as LMS activity, attendance, grades and more and use it to monitor student engagement. With student retention software you can give staff the insights they need to connect students with the right services to support them through their issues with student finance, academics, or personal struggles and keep them on track to graduate.

Mitigating and Special Circumstances Management

Finally, institutions should consider their process for managing student’s mitigating and special circumstances. For many students submitting an extenuating circumstances request is their first call for help. Other students don’t even request this help if the process is too complicated and then it is often too late to prevent them from failing or dropping out.

Institutions should implement a system that is not only clear, consistent and compassionate for students but one that will allow staff to easily process applications, quickly identifying students at-risk and offering them necessary support. If a student is struggling with student finance or academically, this can immediately be referred to the appropriate team and students can get the help they need.

By improving student support services institutions can help students overcome their student finance difficulties and achieve their academic goalsThese solutions can improve student retention and completion rates, which can enhance the quality and reputation of higher education in Ireland. It can also improve student satisfaction and well-being, which can foster a positive learning environment and culture.  

For more information on how to improve student support and student retention, contact SEAtS today!