My university recently made a direction that lectures attendance is mandatory. Now my question is, are there any studies that compare mandatory and not mandatory lectures quality? The university is trying to increase its quality and this was its main step this year.

More description: As lecture quality comparison I mean, when is it easier to concentrate, study, teach and learn? When lectures are mandatory, there are a lot of students that doesn't have real interest in subject and are disturbing and making noise. That influences all students, as you can't hear what professor is saying, professor is disturbed and interrupted in teaching. So are there any studies that prove this?

Is this in overall a good step of university? I believe that good professors can motivate students to come to lectures, and if lectures are empty, it's a sign of something (not necessarily bad quality of professor) and this doesn't solve it at all, or am I wrong?

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    It probably depends on many factors, but it would be interesting to see a study of whether this yields an improvement on average. I do suspect that this is a case of treating the symptoms of something more fundamentally broken. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 16:26
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    From my anecdotal observation, being mandatory and being important and of good quality strongly anticorrelates (good course does not need people to force to attend + there is feedback mechanism + most people who attend actually care (not a few %)). This is a fallacy of top-down thinking (plus assumption that the only way to educate people is to force them to do so). Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 17:14
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    What does it mean to have mandatory attendance? How is it enforced? As someone who skipped a large fraction of lectures when I was a student, I would not have been happy with any attempt to enforce attendance....
    – Matt Reece
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 17:24
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    @MattReece Enforcement of attendance usually happens through the grading system, either by having attendance count towards the grade / absence count against the grade, or having some "threshold" where more than N absences result in a failed/incomplete grade. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 18:13
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    See the answers to this related question about how to increase student engagement. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 18:34

4 Answers 4


In fact there are many studies undertaken in this topic. Below you may find the link to some of these papers.

You can find tons of papers in this topic. Look at this link and her

Hope it helps

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    I would not compare voluntary attendance with forced attendance (correlation is not causation...). Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 17:20
  • I did not compare anything either. I just provided some related articles not belong to me for interested readers.
    – Espanta
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 4:43
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    To be fair, I am grateful for a set of links (well beyond just personal opinions what is like standard on this site). Just saying that for a question on mandatory attendance putting papers on voluntary attendance may be not that relevant (and people make thinking "high attendance is important therefore we should force it"). Compare: a usually a healthy bird can fly; but throwing a dead bird into air won't make it healthy. And throwing an ostrich high into air may actually kill it. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 12:35

The answer to this question is that the question has no answer, because classes are not all alike. If you're taking a foreign language, then obviously attendance is extremely important. If it's a creative writing class, then students are critiquing each other's work in class, and there's no substitute for that experience. Classes come in different sizes and are taught using different methods. If the class is 500 students in an auditorium, and the professor gives old-fashioned straight lectures, then maybe watching the lecture on video would be just as good -- if not better, since you could repeat some parts and skip others. If the class is 25 students and the professor uses modern interactive teaching methods, then attendance is probably extremely valuable.

The idea of having a university-wide rule strikes me as a stupid idea. It's one-size-fits-all, which I've argued doesn't make sense. It's an improper violation of academic freedom. What it sounds to me like is this. This school got worried about their "success rates." Success rates are not a good measure of the quality of education, for a variety of reasons. At the community college where I teach, students consider it normal to take every class two or more times in order to optimize their GPA. (They can drop up to the 12th week and get a W on their transcript.) Furthermore, success rates can easily be raised simply by lowering standards.


My school also has a mandatory attendance policy. While some uninterested students do cause problems there are classroom management techniques to handle that. For example when my students get out of control I warn them. If they continue then I remove them and mark them absent for the day.

While I do understand you are looking for studies I want to make clear that there is not much reason for lectures to drop in quality just because you have a forced attendance policy.

All that said, I could see how in-class activities have lower participation in such a situation and that could lead to reduced learning for the group.


It's a great step for the University. If a student comes to the lecture, they will learn something whether they intend to or not. This should, theoretically, raise the grades of the students in the classroom, which will raise the grades in the University as a whole.

Think of this in a case where you're in a lecture and the professor puts his notes online. Students see this and decide they don't need to go because they can simply read the notes themselves and learn it on their own. This doesn't necessarily mean the prof is bad, it just means that the students are a bit lazy. Even if they do end up reading the notes (which is rare), they're still missing out on critical notes, hints the prof may give, and emphasis on certain topics. Even asking or hearing other students questions. When I was a student, I was in a class that was full and our professor posted his quizzes online, making it so you just had to look up the answers on the internet or take the quiz with a student that did attend class. In the end, I was one of 5 students out of 60. That class had a very low class average.

It's true that students could be in the class that are disruptive, but having mandatory attendance doesn't restrict the prof from kicking those disruptive students out and taking away their attendance for that day. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to remove extremely disruptive students. And if they're there but don't care about the topic, they shouldn't be in the class anyway, or should at least understand that you need to take the class and should make an effort to understand it.

I don't have a study to show you about this, but if you look at it from the view where it's good and think about it, it's pretty obvious there are reasons for it. Schools without the mandatory policy look at schools that have it and see that there's benefit for it, which is why that put it in themselves. No school would put a mandatory policy in without checking into its effectiveness, especially if it's the main step to making their school better.

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    Showing up to a class does not imply learning. I've seen many cases of students literally sleeping during class. They aren't learning anything, no matter how good the professor is. I've also had classes where the professor goes by a book in the literal sense: Everything in the lecture was written out in the book. Some students just read the book without going to the lecture and did well on the exams. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 16:32
  • Sleeping aside, if they're sitting on Facebook and half listening they will pick up something simply by being there. It may not be everything, as intended, but so long as their ears can listen (ie. are not covered by headphones or the person is not asleep), they'll get a little knowledge. And it's true, some professors can go by the book, and students can just read it, but they still won't be there to ask questions or listen to other people's questions. You also need to have the want to read the book; being in the lecture forces you to read it. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 16:54
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    @littlekellilee But shouldn't it be up to students to learn? So making attendance mandatory makes people who don't care learning a tiny percent, at cost of people who want to learn but prefer other ways (lecture is just one form, not the only way to get enlightened; for example I, most of the time, preferred to read the textbook or notes, at my pace). Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 17:46
  • The ones who don't care about learning won't learn if they're in the lecture or out of it. Why be in University if you don't want to learn? If they're forced to go to lecture, it at least helps give them a chance to do better than allowing them to skip. Think about it from the University's perspective, being that they're making the rule. They let people into the school because they expected them to go to class and learn. If someone skips all the time and lowers the school's average, the school would likely have preferred to accept someone else who has more want to get high grades. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 18:42
  • Clearly you haven't heard the "joke" about the studnt who pulls out a deck of cards and starts playing solitaire in lecture. When the teacher confronts then, they say "Sorry, Professor, I forgot my laptop."
    – JeffE
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 5:31

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