What Makes Them Leave and Where Do They Go? Non-completion and Institutional Departures in STEM

  • Lars UlriksenEmail author
  • Lene Møller Madsen
  • Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard


This chapter presents the results of a quantitative analysis of national data covering Danish students who in the period 1995–2009 completed an upper-secondary school programme and entered a higher-education science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) programme. The analysis focuses on identifying variables that change the hazard ratio for (1) entering a STEM programme and (2) leaving a STEM programme without completing it. Finally, the chapter explores (3) the destinations of students who leave a STEM higher-education programme. It is found that there has been no change in the relative chance of a male or female student entering a STEM programme. The results suggest that female students are more affected by achieving a high grade-point average and by the educational background of their parents than are the male students. The relative risk of non-completion is higher for women than for men, but the most important factor is GPA on entry. A disturbing result is that when student leave a STEM programme, only one third enter another STEM programme. Slightly more enter a non-STEM programme while non-STEM leavers only rarely enter a STEM programme. Non-completion in STEM higher education is a net loss of STEM graduates.


  1. Holmegaard, H., Madsen, L., & Ulriksen, L. (2014). A journey of negotiation and belonging: understanding students’ transitions to science and engineering in higher education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(3), 755–786. doi:  10.1007/s11422-013-9542-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ministeriet for Forskning Innovation og Videregående Uddannelser. (2012). Notat 3 om alder på adgangsgivende eksamen. Copenhagen. Retrieved from
  3. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (2nd ed., Vol. 2). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  4. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college. Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ulriksen, L., Madsen, L. M., & Holmegaard, H. T. (2010). What do we know about explanations for drop out/opt out among young people from STM higher education programmes? Studies in Science Education, 46(2), 209–244. doi: 10.1080/03057267.2010.504549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Universitets- og Bygningsstyrelsen. (2011, November 18). Notat om universiteterns bachelor- og kandidatuddannelser. Retrieved May 9, 2012, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Ulriksen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lene Møller Madsen
    • 1
  • Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Science EducationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen CDenmark

Personalised recommendations