The Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB) has been consistently expanding its student base, not only by increasing its international presence, which now has approximately 36 per cent of students from other countries, but also by including new audiences, such as students over the age of 23 and those on higher vocational technical courses.
The diversification of entry routes presents significant challenges related to student integration and academic performance. These challenges have become even more complex during and after the Covid-19 pandemic (which has represented significant losses, implied emotional and academic challenges and accentuated educational disparities), requiring the institution to make a continuous effort to integrate students with very diverse cultural backgrounds and training. In addition, it is considered essential to implement pedagogical support programmes that contribute to students’ academic success.
In the 2023/2024 academic year, IPB has a total of 9548 students enrolled in the various study programmes. However, of the 3943 students who entered the 1st year for the first time during the 2022/2023 academic year on Master’s, Bachelor’s and Higher Professional Technician courses, around 35% chose not to renew their enrolment for 2023/2024.
This rate of non-renewal raises considerable concerns, as it suggests a potential path to dropping out of school. As part of the Drop-In@IPB project, a helpline was set up in collaboration with the Student Ombudsman, the IPB psychology office and the social action services, to establish a close and permanent link with students at risk of dropping out, identifying the causes and intervening preventively to avoid this scenario materialising. The analysis made it possible to understand the reasons behind the decision not to renew, with economic difficulties, difficulties in obtaining a visa, and family situations incompatible with studies, among others, being the main factors indicated.
In the new project, which is the subject of this proposal, the intention is to work to mitigate the reasons given by students for not renewing their enrolment by implementing specific measures aimed at addressing the difficulties identified during the information survey.
This project intends to emphasise the comprehensive programme for integrating students and promoting academic success that began under the Drop-In@IPB project, with special attention to monitoring In addition to consolidating the measures already implemented, the aim is to introduce new initiatives that complement and strengthen these objectives, adapting to the emerging needs of students in the current educational scenario.
The use of practice-based teaching methodologies is crucial to enable higher education systems to provide the skills required by the labour market, as well as to train teachers, drawing on the experience gained during emergency remote teaching and the use of digital technologies during the pandemic. The intention is to apply this experience to blended learning contexts, promoting innovative approaches to pedagogical methodologies, teaching practices and technological tools.To reduce failure rates and the likelihood of dropping out of higher education, promoting academic success and strengthening the bond between students and the institution should start from the moment they enter the system and continue throughout their academic careers. In this way, new students’ connection to the institution is not limited to the initial week of reception and integration but is developed and consolidated throughout the course, through mentoring and pedagogical tutoring offered by colleagues who are already fully integrated into the city, institution and course, and by teachers. academic performance, preventing school dropouts and improving academic results.