Computing courses have the highest level of student drop out, with close to half of all students in this area failing to complete their programme.

That is according to new data on student completion rates published by the Higher Education Authority.

The comprehensive study tracked students who entered the third level system in 2007.

The HEA found particular problems among students choosing computing and engineering courses in institutes of technology, with a 45% drop out rate among computing students.

The bulk of these students would have left after their first year of study.

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The IT with the highest overall drop out rate is the former Tallaght IT, which is now part of the country’s newest university, TU Dublin.

The study found a direct link between Leaving Certificate performance and academic success.

Drop out rates are far higher among students with lower Leaving Certificate points.

Compared to universities and other colleges, institutes of technology have a larger cohort of students entering on lower points.

At the former Tallaght IT, 96% of students had under 400 points.

By contrast, the college with the highest completion rate, St Patrick’s Teacher Training College, had no entrants with under 400 points.

Analysis: Raw facts do not explain why students drop out of college

This is the first comprehensive analysis of completion rates since 2001.

It found that overall completion rates in Ireland compare favourably with the international picture.

Across the entire sector, 75% of students complete a course.

The figure rises to 83% for university students, and 94% for students attending colleges such as teacher training institutions.

It drops to 66% for students attending institutes of technology.

Looking at fields of study, drop out rates are highest among computing students at 45%.

Areas such as hospitality and tourism, and engineering manufacturing and construction, also experience high non-completion rates, at 35% and 33% respectively.

Students studying in the field of education are most likely to stay on, with 91% completing their courses.

Female students are 4% more likely to complete their courses compared to males.