2011 – Madeleine R. H. Roberts, Tanya J. McGill, Peter N. Hyland

Why Students Leave Their ICT Degrees: A Gender Comparison

Madeleine R. H. Roberts
School of Information Systems and Technology
University of Wollongong
Wollongong, NSW
Email: mrhr01@uowmail.edu.au

Tanya J. McGill
School of Information Technology
Murdoch University Murdoch, WA
Email: t.mcgill@murdoch.edu.au

Peter N. Hyland
School of Information Systems and Technology
University of Wollongong
Wollongong, NSW
Email: phyland@uow.edu.au

Student attrition is of particular concern in the field of ICT because the industry faces staffing shortfalls, generally and a noticeable lack of female employees. This paper explores the reasons students give for leaving their ICT courses and examines gender differences in them. An online survey of early leavers from four Australian universities was conducted. The results show that, for many students, a combination of issues lead to their withdrawal. Whilst the gender imbalance was certainly noted, sexist behaviour from male staff or students was not rated highly as an issue in terms of the withdrawal of female students from their course. Females ex-students were however more likely to believe that they didn’t have the expected background knowledge for the course, didn’t understand the concepts, or didn’t understand the meaning of terms used in the course. Recommendations are made to address issues that could be mitigated by university action.