PHDP9400 Frafall fra høyere utdanning – årsaker og konsekvenser Emneplan

Engelsk emnenavn
Drop out from Higher Education: Reasons and Consequences
5 stp.


Drop out from HE has been a public concern for several decades, by both education authorities and institutions. The political concern assumes that low completion and high dropout rates entail loss of time and money for the individual student, for the HE institutions, and for society. This societal loss is arguably particularly worrying in welfare state professions like teaching and nursing, where prognoses estimate a considerable future labour shortage. For the institutions, student departure represents a problem by creating planning challenges and reduced income. High departure rates may also be interpreted as an expression of student dissatisfaction. For the individual dropout, the consequences are more varied, and vary from transferring to another program or institution, or getting an interesting job to unemployment or low paid work.

Such individual variation in consequences, reflects in many ways the variation in reasons for dropping out. There are several sophisticated explanatory models of the drop-out/ persistence phenomenon. Most of these stress that drop-out is a longitudinal, complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon, or indeed several different phenomena. Several factors influence the drop-out decision, and exactly which factors, and their relative strength, vary both between individuals and between groups of students. Furthermore, the reasons for dropping out of higher education entirely and transferring to another program or institution are different events with (at least partly) different explanations. The reasons for students dropping out may also vary with the timing of the drop-out decision (students dropping out in their first semester or year may have different reasons than students dropping out later).

Tinto (a prominent drop-out researcher) prefers the term ‘student departure’, arguing that leaving higher education often is a purposive action, not something that just happens to people. Some theories describe the decision to leave as a result of explicit calculations on costs, benefits and the individual risk of failure, whereas others describe the choice as the fulfilment of different sets of values among youth of different social origin, or stress differences in socialisation (both gender-specific, class-specific or ethnic group-specific socialization). To some extent this corresponds to classical debates in social theory on the relative importance of agency and structure.


On successful completion of the course, the student has the following learning outcome defined as knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student is

• able to identify the main theoretical strands in studies of drop-out from, and persistence in, higher education

• familiar with different empirical approaches to studies of drop out

• able to give an overview of the state of the art of international empirical research on drop-out and persistence



The student is

• able to write international articles about drop-out and persistence in higher education and its’ consequences.

• able to do research in drop-out and persistence in higher education and its’ consequences at an international level


General competence

The student is

• able to give constructive comments and critique to peers

• able to receive constructive comments and critique from peers

• able to take part in an academic discussion in English

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

The course is organised as a three-day workshop. The course is given in English. The number of participants is limited to 10. Each participant is expected to play an active part in the workshop (please refer to section ‘Work Requirements’). The course literature is expected to be read before the course.

Practical training

The workshop will give the students practical training in participation in academic discussions about concrete ongoing research. To assess and give comments to the work of others and to receive comments from peers on their own work.

Coursework requirements

• Participants are expected to take part in discussions during the workshop.

 • Participants are expected to prepare and give comments to fellow participants’ paper.

• Participants shall prepare and present a draft paper and hand it in a week before the workshop for it to be distributed to the other participants. (please refer to section ‘Assessment’).

 Work requirements must be met within fixed deadlines. Work requirements are evaluated Approved or Not Approved.

Vurdering og eksamen

Course participation and accepted paper gives 5 ECTS credit points. The paper shall be at least 8 pages. The paper is assessed and approved by course responsible professor and visiting academic contributors to the course. The paper is assessed on the basis of the stated learning outcome for the course.

Grading Scale

Pass or Fail.

Support materials for assessment/examination



Target Group

The course is aimed at Ph.D.-students.

Required prerequisite knowledge

Applicants must have completed their master’s degree and be students in a Ph.D.-programme. Conditioned by the number of applicants in a Ph.D.-programme and the relevance of the course topics of the applicants’ educational background, Ph.D.-project and paper, other applicants may be considered. The decisions on acceptance will be taken by course responsible lecturer.

Applications should include approximately one page about the applicants’ background, education, Ph.D.-programme, a SHORT description of the project and a preliminary title of the paper.