One of the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy is to ensure that at least 40% of 30-34-year-olds complete higher education. To understand the current situation, the European Commission has recently published the “Dropout and Completion in Higher Education in Europe” report which focuses on reducing dropout and improving completion in higher education as two of the main concerns.

This new report shows that study success is measured differently in European countries and that national governments and higher-education institutions use different measures to promote these goals.

The study found that the EU countries with a higher level of study success are those in which the objectives, targets and policies tend to be more successful, especially if the policy approach is comprehensive and consistent.

Reducing dropout and increasing completion rates in higher education is one of the key strategies for creating the skills the European industry needs as well as for increasing Europe’s capacity to innovate and foster productivity and social justice.

Key findings of the report include:

Study success is an important issue on the European policy agenda

In countries such as Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland and France, study success is very high or high on the agenda. In Spain, Germany, Portugal, Austria and Switzerland, among others, study success is on the agenda, while in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Lithuania it is given no or little relevance.

The definition of study success varies across countries in Europe

National governments and higher education institutions use different orientations to guide their policy-making with respect to study success:

Completion: to have students successfully complete their study programme with a degree.

Time-to-degree: to have students complete their study programme within a reasonable time period.

Retention or dropout: the objective is to have students re-enrol in a study programme until they complete their degree and reduce the likelihood they drop out before completing their programme.

There is a wide variety in the funding, information and organisational measures for facilitating study success in Europe

170 national and institutional policy instruments have been identified in 35 countries across Europe. These instruments have been grouped into 22 typical policies that fall under three main policy areas:

Financial and funding incentives: Financial rewards or sanctions to change the behaviour of students and/or institutions towards study success.

Information and support for students: provide information and any type of (non-financial) support to (prospective) students by national organisations or higher education institutions to improve their decision-making and study behaviour.

Organisation of higher education: establishing structures and procedures relating to the organisation of teaching and learning to improve study success.

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