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University drop out rates are worse among disadvantaged students, official data shows

Posted on: 2019-03-07 09:30:00

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, has warned that universities must step up their efforts to tackle the “damaging” drop out rates, adding that the regulator will intervene if they fail to do so.

In 2016/17, 8.8 per cent of the most disadvantaged students failed to complete their degrees, up from 8.6 per cent the previous year, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

Meanwhile, the proportion of all students dropping out of university during the same two year period declined from 6.4 per cent to 6.3 per cent.

London Metropolitan University had the highest drop out rate of all, with almost one in five students (18.6 per cent) failing to complete their degree. It was followed by Bolton University (15.4 per cent) and then Bedfordshire University (15.2 per cent).  

Cambridge and Oxford universities had the lowest drop out rates, with one per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

 Universities are under increasing pressure to admit more students from poor backgrounds.

Russell Group institutions have been told that must "eliminate" the gap in admissions between wealthier students and their less well-off peers within 20 years, according to targets published by the universities watchdog.

Initiatives include bursaries, extra tutoring and support, and giving lower offers to those coming from state schools But students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to drop out of university than their wealthier peers for a variety of possible reasons.  

They are less likely to have family or friends who went to university meaning they may not know what to expect, and they may struggle academically if they have gone to a school that do not usually send pupils on to higher education.

Mr Hinds said that while universities have made “huge progress” in admitting more from students from disadvantaged backgrounds, this is undermined by the increased drop out rates.

 “Universities need to look at these statistics and take action to reduce drop-out rates,” he said.

 “If they don’t, we have given the Office for Students power to take action. I expect them to do that and challenge institutions to look at what support they can offer – particularly to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups – to turn these figures around.”    

He said that universities with the highest drop-out rates that their figures give the impression that they are more interested in getting “bums on seats” than offering support for students throughout their degree.

 Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: "We know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to complete their studies than their more advantaged peers. 

"Where universities are not making enough progress in this area, we will expect them to turn the situation around to ensure that higher education's life changing benefits can be realised."

Source: Telegraph

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