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Student non-attendance in higher education
A phenomenon of student apathy or poor pedagogy?

Author - Joanne Cleary-Holdforth


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Introduction

Non-attendance at university seems to be an on-going problem that appears to transcend country, university and discipline. One need only consult the literature on this subject to appreciate the magnitude of this phenomenon (Gump 2006; McCarey et al. 2006; Sharma et al. 2005; Nicholl and Timmins 2005; Hughes 2005; Hunter and Tetley 1999; Longhurst 1999). It is a phenomenon that is both intriguing and frustrating and yet there is very little evidence of university or governmental policy on it. It is generally accepted that university is a rite of passage for its students and is, therefore, as much about a ‘coming of age’ and the development of autonomous adults, as it is about training and ‘education’ per se (Bourgeois et al. 1999). This culture, therefore, does not embrace mandatory attendance. Consequently, policy on attendance is often non-existent and where it is considered, it certainly seems to vary not only from university to university but even from department to department (Cohn and Johnson 2006). Attendance does become an issue, however, where there is a ‘professional’ element to the programme, such as in nursing, for example, where a high ‘minimum’ attendance is stipulated (An Bord Altranais 2005). This leads to tensions between the professional and academic values. This assignment will attempt to explore the phenomenon that is non-attendance amongst university students from the students’ and academics’ perspectives. It will consider the implications of non-attendance and propose possible ways forward in an attempt to resolve the issue in a way that benefits both groups.

 


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