Initiative aims to combat attrition rates

Over 17,000 students will take part in an initiative allowing lecturers, tutors and university members to identify those most at risk of dropping out

The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) suggest that 6 percent of first year students give up their university place within the first 12 months, coming at a cost to universities of £33,000 per student. With over 424,000 students being accepted onto UK university courses in 2016, this dropout cost totals nearly £839,520,000 per year, making it clear just how damaging attrition rates are to the education sector.

However, a new initiative being pioneered by Thomas International, uses psychometric assessments to combat this increasingly worrying trend. In a first of its kind, Leeds Beckett University is trialling the programme. Over 17,000 students will take part in the initiative that will allow lecturers, tutors and members of the university to identify those most at risk of dropping out, so that additional support can be offered.

The assessments

The assessments, known as Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) will take students less than eight minutes to complete, and will provide the university with a wealth of knowledge on each person who takes part. This includes each student’s strengths and limitations, their motivations and communication style, their basic fears and how they behave under pressure. These profiles can then be used to recognise students who are underperforming, lacking motivation or are most likely to leave. The university can then tailor how they teach, support and communicate with these students to keep them engaged on the course.

In a bid to further extend the initiative’s reach, Leeds Beckett University has also partnered with IT solutions company, DTP Group, to capture additional data, this time measuring an individual’s use of their student card across the campus. This technology tracks when and where students are most commonly tapping into resources, such as printers or canteens, and also helps to measure the level of engagement each student is having with the university. When deployed alongside the PPA assessments, the university believes that this technology will play a key role in collecting data that will prevent the attrition rates from rising.

‘The Personal Profile Analysis assessments reveal all aspects of a student’s personality, so that the faculty can be aware of those who are most at risk of not adjusting and can offer extra support from the start to those who need it.”

Claire Aydogan, Head of Student and Graduate Futures at Leeds Beckett University, said: “During the last two years, over 700 students have taken part in our private study, to judge the benefits of the PPA assessments for both students and members of the university. This pilot scheme enabled us to identify a number of students who needed additional support and would have been at risk of withdrawing.

“We had hugely positive feedback from the university staff, who were trained by Thomas International in PPA and used the insights to understand the best way to manage, motivate and engage with students – helping them reach their full potential. Our aim now is to act as a pioneer, proving that dropout rates can successfully be lowered using psychometric assessments.”

Continued benefits

The PPA psychometric assessments and reports have further benefits, helping to support students as they progress through university and into their working lives. The PPA reports can help students recognise their own personality types and ensure they are playing to their strengths. The data also enables students to clearly articulate to potential employers what skills and qualities they can bring to organisations when applying for jobs and internships after graduation.

Ciaran Morton, Managing Director at Thomas International, concludes: “School and university are worlds apart in terms of the environment. Academically, students go from school, where structure and guidelines are in place, to university where it is much more about self-motivation. On a personal and social level, adjusting to the university lifestyle is also a huge change. The PPA assessments reveal all aspects of a student’s personality, so that the faculty can be aware of those who are most at risk of not adjusting and can offer extra support from the start to those who need it.”


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