Emirati males more likely to drop out

The Emirati males are more likely to drop out of their higher education due to work, less engagement at the university life as well as lack of motivation, said Dr James Mackin, provost of the Abu Dhabi University (ADU).

By Olivia Olarte

Published: Wed 16 Feb 2011, 12:57 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:03 PM

Speaking at the Sungard Higher Education Executive Forum 2011 in the Capital on Sunday on improving student retention and success, Dr Mackin noted that the Emirati males comprise the most vulnerable group at ADU as majority of those enrolled at the university’s undergraduate programmes are working.

Since ADU started classes in 2003, the retention rate of its Emirati male students has been consistently low compared to the rest of the university population.

This is “because many of the males are working, so you tend to lose students who are not engaged all the time,” explained Dr Mackin to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the forum.

“And when the course works prove too difficult they just go back to work. That’s one of the other issues. There’s a low motivation to get the final degree,” he observed, adding that their work tended to be the safety net for many of these students.

“After their first year, many will not return and if there is, I suspect there’s a very small percentage,” said Dr Mackin, who admitted that exact reasons for these leavers are hard to pin down.

During his presentation, Dr Mackin noted that retaining students is a global issue and identified several initiatives that universities worldwide could introduce to address this, citing examples from two US universities.

These include developing a retention programme that focuses on engaging the minority and majority groups in the same class or enrolling the same group of students in a class with whom they could associate and form study groups with, hiring more minority professors, hiring professor advisors, establishing a living and learning community and a centre for academic success where professors provide tutoring on a variety of subjects, supplemental instruction, moderated study groups and informal study session, peer-mentoring programme, introducing evening courses for working students and housing on campus.

“This is designed to change the culture a little bit when you put housing on the campus as the restless students become more engaged,” stated Dr Mackin.

These initiatives often result in higher retention and graduation rates of students. However, Dr Mackin cautioned the academics and educators at the forum not to expect overnight results.

“Don’t think you’ll see the impact right away, you’re investing in the long term but keep at it,” he urged.

As for retaining the Emirati males at ADU, Dr Mackin said ADU plans to establish a learning centre where males and females can “bond with their peers a lot more, find out a common interest and perhaps they want to stay in school just because they bonded with their friends. A lot of times that’s the reason why they stay in school,” he said.

As part of its retention programme, ADU is also looking at developing its students’ success centre, making its tutors certified and introducing an honour society where high achieving students can become a member and carry out a service requirement, such as tutoring other students for free.

“We actually have a fairly high retention rate for a commuter campus, and I’m pretty pleased with it. Our retention rate is about 90 per cent and higher. With our graduation rate, we lose a lot percentage in the first year, then we lose percentages after that. We are averaging about 45 percent or so,” concluded Dr Mackin.

The event saw more than 60 higher education leaders representing the country’s universities, colleges and government educational authorities. In addition to the UAE, other countries scheduled to host similar forums on student retention and success include Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Turkey.


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