Improving career guidance before students apply to university would significantly cut dropout rates, analysis suggests.
According to a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills research paper that followed almost 106,000 students who applied to university in 2005-06, those who consulted only a few sources of advice when picking their degree course were far more likely to drop out by the end of their first year.
Those who spoke highly of the advice they received in sixth form were also far more likely to finish their degree, says the report, based on the Futuretrack survey run by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research.
The report, Learning from Futuretrack: Dropout from Higher Education, published on 10 March 2014, recommends that universities provide “more intensive sources of advice” when undertaking outreach projects with schools.
This conclusion is likely to strengthen the case for an overhaul of the careers advice service in schools, which has been responsible for this issue since 2012. Three-quarters of schools provide inadequate advice, an Ofsted report found in September 2013.
The latest statistics show that 7.4 per cent of students quit their course in 2010-11 by the end of the first year – a figure that rises to 9.2 per cent for men, the report says.
Mature entrants are almost twice as likely as younger entrants to drop out, with 11.6 per cent leaving by the end of their first year compared with 6.3 per cent, while 7.1 per cent of state school students left compared with 3.7 per cent of private school students.
However, students did not tend to drop out because the cost of study became too high, the report says. Instead, lower levels of attainment at GCSE and A level are far more likely to explain the higher dropout rates among students from poor backgrounds than their family’s wealth, the report says.
Universities should also continue to provide masterclasses for local schools to help raise GCSE and A-level results because higher attainment levels also lower dropout rates, the study recommends.