Black students are 50 per cent more likely to drop out of university than white students, a new study says.
Amid renewed interest in student retention rates following their inclusion as teaching excellence framework (TEF) metrics, a report by the Social Market Foundation thinktank states that the dropout rate for black students (10.3 per cent for all years of study) is one and a half times higher than the rate for white and Asian students.
Overall, the dropout rate for all students is 6.9 per cent for all years of study, according to the report, On Course for Success? Student Retention at University, published on 19 July.
The report, commissioned by the UPP Foundation, a charitable trust created by student housing provider University Partnerships Programme (UPP), calls on the government to introduce a target for universities to eliminate the retention gap for black students by reducing non-completion rates for black students to the current national average by 2025.
The study also traces a clear correlation between institutional dropout rates and the proportion of black students at a university – although some universities with high proportions of black students perform far better than expected on this metric, it says.
The higher-than-average dropout rates of black students may explain why London universities fare comparatively badly on this front, the report says. Several London universities have highlighted the issue after the city’s universities performed far worse on average in the TEF than those outside the UK capital.
With 16 per cent of all London students identifying as black, there is evidence that “ethnicity and socio-economic background could be driving the London effect” regarding dropout rates in the capital, which are, on average, about 50 per cent higher (about 9 per cent of first-year students dropping out in 2014-15) than those in other regions (about 6 per cent for first-year students in the South West, the South East and the East Midlands).
The report calls on the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to focus on university retention rates in the capital through his new skills task force. This could include assessing what more could be done through housing, transport and leisure amenities to help students participate fully in university life, it says.
“Tackling non-continuation is an important element to improving social mobility throughout higher education,” said Paul Marshall, chair of the UPP Foundation.
He also backed calls with the report for the new Office for Students to introduce “rewards for institutions that facilitate successful transfer of students from their institution to another institution”.
“While it is important to think about retention at an institution level, each non-completion is a lost opportunity for the individual from a welfare and economic perspective and for the economy at large,” said Dr Marshall, who added: “It's wasted talent that we believe should be nurtured and inspired.”