The role of the first-year experience in student attrition

Irina Shcheglova*, Elena Gorbunova, Igor Chirikov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Quality assurance in higher education often emphasises the importance of lowering student attrition. The first year of study is a crucial period for mitigating risks of attrition as this is the time when students develop a sense of belonging, and academic and personal connections. This study explores the long-term effects of the first-year student experience on attrition during their four years of study using two longitudinal datasets from a highly selective Russian university. First-year student data from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey for two cohorts of students with graduation data four years later were combined to identify factors that increase attrition. Student disengagement and lower academic aspirations during the first year of study are associated with student attrition in both cohorts. Policy implications of the findings for Russia and post-communist higher education systems with attrition linked to academic performance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-322
Number of pages16
JournalQuality in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • first-year experience
  • Russia
  • Student attrition
  • student engagement
  • student retention


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