To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Indicators to prevent university drop-out and delayed graduation: an Italian case

Anna Bussu (Faculty of Health, Social Care and Medicine, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)
Claudio Detotto (University of Corsica, Corte, France)
Laura Serra (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 3 September 2019

Issue publication date: 7 April 2020



Research on the association between individual characteristics of undergraduate students, drop-out and delayed graduation is still evolving. Therefore, further evidence is required. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This paper reports on an empirical study examining the relationship between students’ individual characteristics and delayed graduation. The analysis is based on a sample of 1,167 students who have registered on and have completed a full-time undergraduate programme in Italy. Using a Probit model, the findings document the individual, background and environmental indicators that play a role in explaining delayed graduation.


The study observes that students who commute to university perform better than those residing on campus. Other factors increasing the probability of completing the undergraduate programme on time include individual characteristics (e.g. gender and age), student background (family income, education), institutional environment (teaching and research quality) and student satisfaction. Finally, some policy implications are discussed.

Social implications

A direct policy implication of these findings is that supporting academic staff in order to enhance their performance in both research and teaching has a positive effect on the performance of the students.


This paper contributes to the debate on the impact of institutional quality on students’ performance, aiming to address the question of balance between teaching and research orientation.



The authors thank to Paolo Deledda of Research office at the University of Sassari and Julianne Harlow and Paul Drinkwater for their useful suggestions.


Bussu, A., Detotto, C. and Serra, L. (2020), "Indicators to prevent university drop-out and delayed graduation: an Italian case", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 230-249.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited