International perspectives on retention and persistence

  • Gary Burkholder Walden University
  • Nicole Holland Walden University
Keywords: Retention, persistence, attainment, higher education, tertiary education, retention strategies


Access to higher education globally is increasing dramatically; attainment of tertiary degrees is a high priority, as educational attainment is associated with increased personal incomes as well as growth of the middle class in developing countries. The purpose of this essay is to briefly examine retention and persistence issues from a global perspective, review some retention strategies that have been employed at schools outside the United States, and to identify several key factors that related to retention and persistence globally, including access, infrastructure, financial consideration, and readiness for tertiary education.  There exists an opportunity to utilize knowledge gained in the evolution of the higher education system in the United States to help address the problems associated with retention and persistence.


DOI: 10.18870/hlrc.v4i2.208


Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. E. (2009). Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution (UNESCO Doc. No. ED.2009/Conf.402/inf.5). Paris, France: UNESCO. Retrieved from

Asian Development Bank (ADB). (2010). Education by 2020: A sector operations plan (Pub. Stock No. TIM102254). Mandaluyong City, Philippines: ADB. Retrieved from

Asian Development Bank. (2012). Access without equity? Finding an better balance in higher education in Asia (Pub. Stock No. RPS124558). Mandaluyong City, Philippines: ADB. Retrieved from

Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 25, 297-308.

Bean, J. P. (2005). Nine themes of college student retention. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success (pp. 215-243). Westport, CT: ACE/Praeger.

Burkholder, G. J., Lenio, J., Holland, N., Jobe, R., Seidman, A., Neal, D., & Middlebrook, J. (2013). An institutional approach to developing a culture of persistence. Higher Learning Research Communication, 3(3), 16-39.

Calderon, A. (2012, September 2). Massification continues to transform higher education. University World News. Retrieved from

European Commission. (2013, June). Report to the European Commission on improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Comptroller and Auditor General. (2007). Staying the course: The retention of students in higher education. London, EN: The Stationary Office. Retrieved from

Fisher, G., & Scott, I. (2011, October). The role of higher education in closing the skills gap in South Africa (Background Paper No. 3). Closing the skills and technology gap in South Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank. Retrieved from

Greenstone, M., Looney, A., Patashnik, J., & Yu, M. (2013, June). Thirteen economic facts about social mobility and the role of education (Policy memo). Washington, DC: The Hamilton Project. Retrieved from

Kapur, D., & Crowley, M. (2008). Beyond the ABCs: Higher education and development (Working Paper 139). Washington, DC: Centre for Global Development.

Lawrence, J. (2005). Re-conceptualising attrition and retention: integrating theoretical, research and student perspectives. Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation, and Development, 2(3), 16-33.

Metz, G. W. (2004). Challenge and changes to Tinto’s persistence theory: A historical review. Journal of College Student Retention, 6(2), n191-207.

Morrison, L., & Silverman, L. (2004). Retention theories, models, and concepts. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success (pp. 61-80). Westport, CT: ACE/Praeger.

Murakami, Y., & Blom, A. (2008). Accessibility and affordability of tertiary education in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru within a global context (Policy Research Working Paper No. 4517). Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics (NCED). (2010). IPEDS Enrollment Survey [Data file]. Retrieved from

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2009). Tertiary education level attainment for age group 25-64. Education: Key Tables from OECD, No. 4.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2012). Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators. Washington, DC: OECD Publishing.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2013). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. Washington, DC: OECD Publishing.

Otis, J. (2011, April/June). World class challenge. Developmental Asia, 10, 14-18. Pfeiff, M. (2011, April/June). Learning by numbers. Development Asia, 10, 6-11.

Seidman, A. (Ed.) (2012). College student retention: Formula for student success (2nd ed.). New York, NY: ACE/Rowman & Littlefield.

Kotecha, P. (Ed.). (2009). Towards a common future: Higher education in the SADC region. Wit, South Africa: Southern African Regional Universities Association. Retrieved from

The White House. (2013). Education: Knowledge and skills for the jobs of the future. Retrieved from

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2014). Position paper on education post-2015 (UNESCO Doc. No. ED-14/EFA/POST-2015/1). Retrieved from

Van Stolk, C., Tiessen, J., Clift, J., & Levitt, R (2007). Student retention in higher education courses: International Comparison. Cambridge, UK: Rand Corp.

World Bank. (2014). Internet users (per 100 people) [Data file]. Retrieved May 3, 2014 from

How to Cite
Burkholder, G., & Holland, N. (2014). International perspectives on retention and persistence. Higher Learning Research Communications, 4(2), 3-10.
Guest Editorial