Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Issues in Educational Research





First Page


Last Page



Institutes for Educational Research


School of Education




Kirk, G. (2022). How can we address the wicked problem of university student attrition?: A BEd (early childhood) case study. Issues in Educational Research, 32(3), 982-1000.


Student retention in education courses is a political imperative. This research examined the wicked problem of attrition in a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Studies) course, drawing on the experiences of three different groups of students studying early childhood. The participants from each study represented different student groups within the course, which included all female (n = 20), all male (n = 6) and all mid-year entry students (n = 10). A qualitative methodology was employed to capture students’ university experiences and their perceptions of events at university. The research generated a unique theoretical framework examining the intersection between student and event and its impact on student belonging. Over fifty-six hours of interview data were analysed and conceptualised using this theoretical framework, which resulted in three distinct categories. This paper reports on one category of the framework, that of ‘Where the intersection of event and student did not meet needs’, identifying factors beyond the university’s remit. Findings indicate that supporting student belonging through events is not straight forward as the one event or experience can either support or not support student belonging, depending on student circumstances. Recommendations to increase student retention and belonging are made that emphasise focusing on factors within the university’s control, such as sourcing mentors within the discipline and educating them in ways to better support peers. In addition, shortening the duration of courses without compromising course quality will support attracting students to the course as well as retaining them.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.