‘Disadvantaged students more likely to drop out of university than richer peers’

Disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out of university in their first year than their better-off peers, official figures suggest.

New data reveals 8.8% of 2016/17 entrants from low participation areas did not appear as second year students in 2017/18.

For those from more advantaged backgrounds who enrolled at English universities the figure was 6%.

The statistics, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), show there has been a slight fall overall in the number of students dropping out in the first year of an undergraduate course.

(PA Graphics)

According to Hesa, the University of Bolton saw the highest proportion of disadvantaged students drop out in their first year – 21.3%.

Nationally, 6.3% of full-time students under the age of 21 taking their first degree did not continue their studies after their first year, down 0.1 percentage points on last year.

London Metropolitan University had the overall highest drop-out rate at 18.6%.

Responding to the data, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said universities needed to do more to address the issue.

He said those with the highest proportion of students not continuing into the second year risk giving the impression they are more interested in getting bums on seats than offering all-round support.

Mr Hinds added: “We have made huge progress in ensuring universities are open to all, with record rates of disadvantaged and under-represented groups in higher education, but every step we make on access is undermined if a larger number students then drop out of their courses.

“No student starts university thinking they are going to drop out and, whilst in individual circumstances that may be the right thing, it is important that all students feel supported to do their best – both academically and in a pastoral sense.”

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: “These statistics show a welcome reduction in the number of students who are not continuing their courses across the sector as a whole.

“Despite the expansion of higher education in England, our continuation rates remain high relative to other countries.

“We should not, though, let a positive national picture mask the situation at some universities and other higher education providers where non-continuation rates are higher than students deserve.

“We know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to complete their studies than their more advantaged peers.

“That’s why the Office for Students’ new approach requires universities to ensure that all students are given the support they need not just to access higher education but also to complete and succeed in their studies.”