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The re-recruitment of students who have withdrawn from Australian higher education

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posted on 2021-07-15, 08:14 authored by Andrew HarveyAndrew Harvey, Giovanna Szalkowicz, Michael LuckmanMichael Luckman

Student attrition within higher education is a growing concern of institutions, governments and prospective students. In an expansive and competitive marketplace, institutions are enrolling students of unprecedented diversity, with differing levels of prior academic achievement. Universities are focussed on student attrition partly because of its rising financial and reputational costs. Resources are allocated to learning analytics, mentoring, and pedagogy, to ensure that any students ‘at risk’ of withdrawing are promptly managed and supported. For governments, the costs of attrition include sectoral reputation and economic inefficiencies. Governments still underpin higher education funding across the Anglo-American world, and their priorities are moving further towards outcomes beyond mere enrolments. Performance-based funding reflects a demand of accountability from institutions for student outcomes, including degree completion and graduate employment rates. Equally, governments are providing sectoral outcome data to prospective students to inform enrolment decisions. Prospective university students are themselves considering this comparative institutional retention data in a context of rising tuition fees and costs of living. As data continues to suggest that what matters is not only commencing, but completing a university degree (Tinto, 2012), relative attrition data is likely to influence student enrolment decisions, especially as retention rates become more embedded within national and international institutional rankings.


This project was funded by Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET) – 2015 Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme National Priorities Pool.


Publication Date


Commissioning Body

Australian Government Department of Education and Training

Type of report

  • Public sector research report


La Trobe University

Place of publication

Melbourne, Victoria





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© Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research, La Trobe University 2017