SUMMARY A study of the attrition rate in higher education is relevant since it may assist in curbing the loss of first year students from tertiary studies. It is, however, unclear whether academic or non-academic factors, or both, on an equal basis, cause the high attrition rate among first year students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The researcher selected and applied an empirical research design. The empirical research design was conducted with first year students as a population study at CPUT (Cape Town Campus). Both quantitative and qualitative methods of research were employed to obtain the major factors causing first year student dropout. All the faculties of the Cape Town campus were included in the study and a sample of 15 departments was conducted. The majority of the respondents (67%) were between the ages 26-30. Females constituted the largest respondents (57%) and male (43%). First year students constituted the largest percentage of the respondents with (93%) and second year students (7%). The researcher believes academic and non-academic communications require strengthening and development.