There has been considerable research into progression and retention but there is little recognition of the complexities that affect students’ lives, especially women with multiple commitments. The purpose of the research reported here is to identify factors affecting teacher education students’ decisions to leave university in their first year. The study sought to delve beneath the surface of attrition and probe the circumstances that influence students’ withdrawal from university.
Results of the study revealed a complex web of factors- in particular, personal or family illness, competing family responsibilities, financial difficulties, and “logistics” forcing students to withdraw or take extended leave. Quests for simple solutions to attrition must be resisted –especially where low-income women with family responsibilities are involved. Policies guaranteeing equality of access to tertiary study are meaningless unless they generate enabling practices that recognise and actively support academic progression and retention amongst a diverse student population.