Dropping out of master’s degrees: objective predictors and subjective reasons

Nir Rotem*, Gad Yair, Elad Shustak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While student attrition constitutes a major institutional concern at the undergraduate level, this topic is overlooked at the master’s level. Dropout rates have been documented, but no solid predictive models are to be found. Likewise, little is known about students’ decision to terminate their studies. With growing enrolment numbers in postgraduate programmes, this blind spot should be addressed. The multi-method research presented here, combining student administrative data from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a survey for students who dropped out of the institution, brings the research on this topic a step forward. The study found that dropout rates of master’s students are 12%. To identify possible predictors of these dropouts, we employed a four-step hierarchical logistic regression model. Academic performance variables predict dropping out far better than background variables, though much of the variation remains unaccounted for. An exploratory factor analysis of dropout survey items identified five factors linked to departure: work obligations, institutional difficulties, family and personal obligations, degree’s economic feasibility, and harassment. These subjective reasons for dropping out should be major targets for dropout prevention efforts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1070-1084
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 HERDSA.


  • Attrition
  • dropout
  • institutional policies and practices
  • master’s students
  • postgraduate


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