2 December 2015

2 December: Christmas drop out rate


As an assistant professor at the Department of Science Education, Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard researches university programmes in the technical and natural sciences. Here, she explains the common spike in student dropouts around Christmas.

According to Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard, many first-year students consider switching programmes around Christmas, as well as dropping out entirely. Two blocks of new coursework have been completed since the September start, and if students haven’t encountered what they came for, they may reconsider the programme’s suitability vis-à-vis their own interests.

Christmas drop out rate

Study has become routine for students by December, according to Holmegaard. If students have not yet had the chance to pursue interests or be exposed to programme content that meets with their expectations, it can be difficult for them to maintain high levels of motivation.

"Some natural science programmes are organised in such a way that a considerable amount of time passes before students begin working on anticipated content. Therefore, students may begin considering Christmas vacation as a time to exhale, begin something new or consider other options."

Drop out rate research

Specifically, Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard investigates programme choice among youth, their transition from high school to university, student drop out and retention, as well as the university to work transition for graduates.

To collect research data, Holmegaard spends a considerable amount of time visiting various programmes around the country. These interviews with students and lecturers are among the explanations for her interest in what she does.

The decision to leave one’s programme can begin to resonate negatively soon after leaving. But according to Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard, the reasons behind dropping out are a complex result of recruitment initiatives, programme organisation, course content, teaching and of course, student strategies.

Supporting students

Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard’s research can be used to support student programme selection. Being aware of student decision making makes it possible to support their transition to university and can help maintain motivation.

Beyond that, Holmegaard’s research can be used to improve university recruitment initiatives so they accurately reflect the realities that students will be met with when their studies begin. Finally, her research can be used by university programmes to ensure that teaching is supportive of the students’ transition to university. All in all, this transition is about the coursework students are met with, the teaching itself and the establishment of effective study strategies.

Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard is a researcher because it allows her the chance to become deeply involved with complex issues – and because she believes that there is an inherent driving force behind the process of creating knowledge, knowledge that has the potential to change the world.