A recent report from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has shown that students from farming backgrounds are more likely to stay in third-level education.

The report titled A Study of Progression in Irish Higher Education” found that, among socio-economic groups, the lowest rate of non-progression from first to second year of college was among students from farming family backgrounds.

Some 9% of students from farming family backgrounds, who started their third-level education in 2013/2014, failed to progress to second year during the 2014/2015 academic year.

This is the lowest rate of non-progression of all the socio-economic groups and it is only a slight change from the 10% of students from farming family backgrounds who failed to progress the year earlier.

In addition, the report found that the highest level of non-progression was among students from the ‘manual skilled’ and ‘other gainfully employed and unknown groups’. This stood at 16%.

Graph: Non-progression rates by socio-economic group

Source: Higher Education Authority

Field of study

The report shows that there is significant variation in the non-progression rates across the differing fields of study in 2013/2014.

Some 12% of those studying science, agriculture and veterinary failed to make the transition from first to second year of third-level education.

This stood at 4% in education and 28% in construction and related fields of study. Progression rates in all three areas have declined since 2012/2013.

Graph: Non-Progression Rates by Field of Study (2012/13 vs 2013/14)

Source: Higher Education Authority

In total, the study shows that 85% of full-time undergraduate new entrants in 2013/2014 progressed to their second year of study in 2014/2015.

According to the HEA, this compares favourably to international rates and shows that the proportion progressing has increased slightly over the last few years.

This, it says, is a testament to the resilience of a sector which has has accommodated rising student numbers while staff numbers and budgets have been cut substantially.

However, while almost 34,000 students do make the transition from first to second year, the fact remains that over 6,200 students did not progress.