New study examines tracking of university students’ and graduates’ progression paths in Europe
September 20, 2012
EUA published last week a new study entitled ‘Tracking Learners’ and Graduates’ Progression Paths – TRACKIT’. The outcome of a two-year EUA-led project, it maps the state of play in 31 countries, and provides factual information on the uses and methods for ‘tracking’ students’ progress at both the national level and within higher education institutions. It is based on a qualitative survey in 31 countries, a series of focus groups, and site visits to 23 European universities in 11 countries.
The study has found that there is a growing interest in tracking and an increasing number of initiatives both at national and institutional level. National-level initiatives for student tracking are in place in 23 of the higher education systems considered by the project, and in 26 systems for graduate tracking. Some countries have adopted centralised tracking approaches while others have adopted ‘shared approaches’, where universities participate in the design and implementation of centrally-led approaches.
At the institutional level, the study found that in 30 of the higher education systems, at least some higher education institutions (HEIs) track their students. It also highlights a general trend towards ‘tracking the student lifecycle’: this means that some institutions are starting not only to track progress of students and collect data on the careers of graduates, but also to complement tracking with a wide range of measures such as ‘bridging courses’, alumni activities and strategic dialogue meetings of the institutional leadership. Increasingly, they also relate tracking to their outreach activities with prospective students.
Provided that institutions take ownership, and disseminate and present results of tracking to staff and students, it can contribute to raising awareness of teaching results and student needs. Tracking was also found to have an impact in terms of the enhancement of learning provision, the improvement of student services, contribution to overall strategic development and in informing and underpinning quality assurance.
Furthermore, the study demonstrated that tracking can help develop a better institutional understanding of issues such as student dropout and employability. While it does not necessarily provide ready-made answers, it is often the starting point for further research and follow-up.
The publication also outlines a number of challenges and risks that were identified, which need to be considered for the improvement and development of tracking. It concludes with a set of guidelines to help higher education institutions develop and implement comprehensive tracking strategies and a section analysing future prospects for tracking in Europe.
The TRACKIT study project, which is co-funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union, has been undertaken by a consortium consisting of EUA; the Irish Universities Association/UCD Geary Institute; Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH (HIS); Lund University; the University of the Peloponnese/Centre for Social and Educational Policy Studies; and Aarhus University. It was presented last week at a special launch reception at the Irish Universities Association, during the EAIE conference in Dublin, and to an audience of European higher education stakeholders in Brussels this week at a lunchtime event organised with the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.