Dropping out of university: when does it matter, how can it be reduced? – Melbourne

More than a quarter of students who start an undergraduate course will leave without a degree. The recent Grattan Institute report Dropping out: the benefits and costs of trying university showed that that this is not always a bad outcome. Some students are just exploring their options, and report benefits from their time at university even if they did not finish a course.

But for other students dropping out is a problem. Some report no benefits at all from their time at university. Others spend several years at university, accruing substantial HELP debts, before leaving without a qualification.

At this Policy Pitch event, the panel discussed the reasons students leave university without completing, and what universities are doing or can do to ensure students get the best outcome from their higher education experience.


Professor Marcia Devlin is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Vice-President at Victoria University in Melbourne. Previously she was Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education at RMIT University and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Quality) at Federation University Australia. As an elected Lifelong Fellow of the Society for Research in Higher Education, Marcia is internationally recognised for her research in tertiary education. In 2017, she published a national study on supporting the retention and success of students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds studying in regional locations. She is published frequently in a range of academic and media outlets.

Professor Kerri-Lee Krause is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Professor of Higher Education at La Trobe University. At La Trobe, she provides strategic leadership to enhance the quality of learning and teaching and the student experience. She has previously led several successful university-wide curriculum transformation initiatives. As a Fellow of the international Society for Research in Higher Education she is internationally recognised for her research on the contemporary undergraduate student experience.

Andrew Norton is the Higher Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute. He is the author or co-author of many articles, reports and other publications on higher education issues. These include Dropping out: the benefits and costs of trying universityand University attrition: what helps and hinders university completion.In 2013-14 he was the co-author of a government-commissioned review of Australia’s demand driven student funding system, and in 2016-17 served on an expert panel advising the Australian education minister on higher education reform.


Megan French is the Marketing Manager for Grattan and the producer and host of the Grattan Institute podcast. Her previous roles in Melbourne have focused on event management, particularly in corporate environments as well as brand management, marketing and relationship building. Megan moved to Melbourne in 2012 following a brief stint living in Italy and prior to this, spent 5 years with the Department of Education Queensland, primarily as a policy officer.