The aim of this working package is to exploit the richness of the university administrative data to analyse academic careers of newly matriculated students in 2004-2015, in terms of the credit earning process, dropout probabilities and timing, time to degree, re-enrolment after dropout and transition from bachelor to master’s degree programs. We address the following research questions:

To what extent do the different aspects of university careers relate to previous schooling and the high school track? Is there evidence that the poor outcomes of the students without an academic high school background is due to lack of the necessary competences?

Are there substantial differences in university careers across socioeconomic backgrounds once we account for prior schooling careers? What is the role played by the different aspects of family background: parental education, occupation and income? Can we ascribe the observed gaps to different aspirations? To what extent can we relate student dropout to need of income?

Are there relevant gender differences in university careers? Are the differences fully mediated by differences in the field of study?

Do we observe relevant changes in the university careers across matriculation cohorts? In particular, do we observe any improvement in dropout rates and time to degree? Can we relate the observed changes to labour market conditions and the economic crisis? Do we find empirical evidence that individuals engage more in education when the labour market prospects are poor, as predicted by the traditional economic theory?

To support the interpretation of our quantitative empirical analyses we will also conduct an extensive qualitative study aimed at shedding light on the reasons why university students eventually decide to withdraw from education. The interviews will be carried out in focus groups on approximately 100 university dropouts from different family backgrounds and previous schooling experiences.