It goes without saying, the number of students sitting in lecture halls or engaging with online content is markedly higher at the start of the year than at the end of it. Even now, only a few weeks into a new academic year, numbers are already beginning to dwindle.
What though is the actual cost of student attrition, and why does retention, engagement and student success need to be an imperative for Australian and New Zealand tertiary education providers?
There are three stages that every student should pass through to have a successful higher education experience which are belongingness, engagement, and retention.
At the individual level, students must feel connected to the university which helps in developing relationships with others. Then comes the engagement stage, where students get involved in university activities. Once students feel like a part of the university, they can thrive in the environment and thus choose to finish their course.
The most recent statistics show first-year attrition rates in Australian universities are at 15 per cent.
This has led to Education Minister Simon Birmingham's call for universities to take "responsibility for the students they enrol".
Attrition does not mean dropping out. It just means the student did not continue their study in the following year.
For example, attrition includes students who suspend studies due to personal circumstances, but return to study a later year.
However, the evidence is that most students who discontinue their studies do not end up completing.