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Reducing university dropout rates with entrance tests – self-fulfilling prophecy or high quality students


  • Mirjam Strupler Leiser

    (Centre for Research in Economics of Education, University of Bern)

  • Stefan C. Wolter

    () (Centre for Research in Economics of Education, University of Bern)


In periods of student booms in tertiary education, the selection of students entering universities gains importance. Consequently, assessing the suitability of different selection methods is crucial for a fair selection process. This paper analyzes whether study success before and after the introduction of an aptitude test is a reasonable measure for the performance of such a test. Employing data from Swiss medical schools, we exploit the implementation of an aptitude test in 1998. The dropout rate in medical schools decreased significantly after the introduction of the test. However, utilizing the performance of transfer students from medical schools – students leaving medical sciences for another subject area – we demonstrate that this reduction in student dropout was not solely a result of better student quality but also of reduced standards in those medical schools. Applying a difference-in-differences strategy, we provide evidence for the endogeneity of dropout rates in medical sciences.

Suggested Citation

  • Mirjam Strupler Leiser & Stefan C. Wolter, 2015. "Reducing university dropout rates with entrance tests – self-fulfilling prophecy or high quality students," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0108, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
  • Handle: RePEc:iso:educat:0108

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeremy P. Smith & Robin A. Naylor, 2001. "Dropping out of university: A statistical analysis of the probability of withdrawal for UK university students," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 164(2), pages 389-405.
    2. Wiji Arulampalam & Robin A. Naylor & Jeremy P. Smith, 2004. "A hazard model of the probability of medical school drop-out in the UK," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 167(1), pages 157-178.
    3. John Bound & Michael F. Lovenheim & Sarah Turner, 2010. "Why Have College Completion Rates Declined? An Analysis of Changing Student Preparation and Collegiate Resources," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 129-157, July.
    4. Alberto Abadie & Javier Gardeazabal, 2003. "The Economic Costs of Conflict: A Case Study of the Basque Country," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 113-132, March.
    5. Di Pietro, Giorgio & Cutillo, Andrea, 2008. "Degree flexibility and university drop-out: The Italian experience," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 546-555, October.
    6. Geraint Johnes & Robert McNabb, 2004. "Never Give up on the Good Times: Student Attrition in the UK," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(1), pages 23-47, February.
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    More about this item


    aptitude test; university dropout; tertiary education; difference-in-differences;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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