UK Has the Lowest University Drop-Out Rates Compared of Any OECD Country, Report Shows

The United Kingdom has the lowest number of students failing to complete higher education, performing better than other OECD countries, a report on non-continuation in UK universities has revealed, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), UK’s only independent think tank focused on higher education.

According to the report, the studies completion rate for the original duration plus three years in the UK stands at 85 per cent, compared to the average of 67 per cent of other OECD countries, Erudera College News reports.

“The proportion of students who complete their course rises if extra time is added to the original predicted end date: for example, some students who appear in non-retention data may have taken a short break from studying but later return or have opted to study at a lower intensity than originally expected,” the report reads.

The latest data revealed that there is an increase in non-continuation of college or university among some students, mostly mature first-degree students, whereas data for other groups have noticed less consistent trends.

During the 2016-2018 period, there was an increase from 6.5 per cent to 6.8 per cent in the non-continuation rate for young full-time first degree home entrants, whereas a lower percentage was noted among other young undergraduates, meaning that it decreased from 16.9 per cent to 15.7 per cent.

Throughout 2020, there were concerns that due to the pandemic, the number of individuals not continuing higher education would continue to increase. However, such an increase was not predicted by students polls over their plans nor by the previous data.

In addition, the report has also highlighted that the completion rates could depend on the following:

Gender. OECD data outline that in countries where there is available data, more women complete Bachelor programmes than men.

Ethnicity, disadvantage, sexual orientation and having a disability. According to a recent newspaper reporting, students of University of Leeds from different minority groups dropped out of university at a higher rate compared to their peers.

Type of institution. Selective higher education institutions have lower non-continuation rates, according to data by the Office for Students provided to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

“The gap in continuation rates ranges from 7.0 per cent for white students at higher tariff providers (96.1 per cent) and white students at other providers (89.1 per cent) to 11.3 per cent for Black students at higher tariff providers (94.3 per cent) and Black students at other providers (83.0 per cent)” the reports adds.

Nevertheless, part-time students are also more likely to leave studies than full-time students, whereas another study of institutions across London revealed that travel or commuting time remains an important indicator regarding continuation among students at three from the six London institutions that were part of the study.

The report highlights the following institutions as the ones that have the lowest non-continuation rates:

  • The University of Cambridge
  • The Royal Agricultural University
  • The University of Law

Whereas, the reasons why individuals leave studies, include:

  • Change of circumstances
  • Regretting joining in a particular course or finding another more attractive option
  • Their preference might be to study individual modules

64% of Students Would Stick to Their Study Choices

Over the years, one in ten students have stated that their higher education has matched their expectations, the HEPI / Advance HE Student Academic Experience survey has revealed.

Recently, the survey also asked students if they would stick to their choices and 64 per cent of them said they would make the same decision, while 5 per cent said they would not continue higher education.

The Director of HEPI and the author of the new report, Nick Hillman said that there is focus more than even on dropping out from higher education, noting that there is even possible that funding could be linked to student retention in the future.

“Not all instances of dropping out are bad. There can be good reasons why a student cannot or should not continue with their course. Moreover, the UK already has the lowest drop-out rate in the developed world,” he said.

According to him, the best way to help students who are planning to leave university is not “heavy-handed regulation” but to spread the best practices.

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