C. Gascueña, R. Guadalupe

Polytechnic University of Madrid (SPAIN)
In most university degrees students after passing all courses in the current syllabus, must perform a final-year project FYP. This is a small project which tries to capture most of the knowledge acquired during university studies. The final project is a mandatory requirement to obtain the university degree.
In this paper we study the problem of dropouts after the start of a FYP. There are a large number of students who have not completed their FYP consequently they do not have a university degree and they are not recognized as qualified professionals being therefore more poorly paid than those professionals with a degree.
In this article we propose to use research projects within an environment where students can perform their FYP to obtain the corresponding higher degree more easily, apart from other tasks assigned.
In our experience as university teachers and researchers we have found that when students develop their final project in scope of a research project, they rarely leave it. They even get higher marks in the evaluation of FYP than those students who produce a FYP on their own but supervised by a tutor.
Research projects provide students a means of using what they have learned during their undergraduate university studies, as well as acquire new knowledge, which also allows them to get an idea of the professional world that awaits them outside the university.
Students are usually very receptive and keen on this kind of projects because it makes them feel a bit more important. It gives them confidence in themselves, they feel as individuals away from university anonymity.
The "privileged" students, who receive the proposal of working in a research project with the possibility of making their FYP within it, think it is a personal achievement and what have been chosen by themselves, for their knowledge, for being good students, etc.., and not as part of the education system. This individualization acts positively on them.
In this paper we have collected some surveys, which show the rate of dropouts in the elaboration of the FYPs and their probable causes. It also proposes some good practices so that students may participate successfully in research projects, as well as being aware of the benefits of our approach for students and researchers.
We believe that this proposal may be of interest for the students and may help them focus on the final year project in a more useful, efficient and fast way. This will prevent dropouts and at the same time be a help for the researcher.