The recommendation in the report of the expert group on future skills needs to increase the completion rates in technician courses from 65 per cent to 75 per cent does not include a specific timeframe for this initiative.
In proposing that completion rates be increased on graduate and technicial courses, the skills group stated that the issues involved are complex. For example, in many cases, students leave a course for positive reasons, for example, to take up employment or apprenticeship, to change to another more suitable course. Each individual has his-her own individual and unique circumstances of early departure from a course. There is no one simple action or initiative that will address this complex issue.
In May 1998 institutes of technology established a national working group with representatives from each institute to focus on maximising success rates for institute students.
Three institutes – Dundalk, Carlow and Tralee – have recently completed a pilot study on retention rates for first year students. These findings will inform the national working group.
Institutes of technology have also awarded a research contract to St. Patrick's, Drumcondra, research centre to carry out in-depth analysis of completion-retention rates.
I am providing £1.5 million over the period 1999-2000 to address the issue of non-completion of courses. I am also actively addressing the provision of science and technology in second level schools, a provision of particular importance in preparing persons for successful participation in technical courses at third level.
The commission on the points system is also in an important way examining the relationship between second level experience and third level success.
Institutes of technology have introduced a range of initiatives and support services seeking to improve completion rates. They include induction-orientation programmes, course information services, tutor systems and systems designed for the early identification of at risk first year students.